Fitness and health 26.7.2016 11:55 am

Getting to grips with acne

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Acne typically appears on the areas of skin that have the most oil (sebaceous) glands, such as your face, neck, chest, back and shoulders.

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. It usually appears on your face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. It can be quite difficult to treat, especially if not combined with lifestyle changes that ensure a healthier, clearer skin. The pimples and bumps heal slowly with regular treatment, and when one begins to go away, others seem to crop up. It is most commonly seen in teenagers, with a reported prevalence of 70% to 87%. Increasingly, younger children and even older adults are getting acne as well.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Acne signs and symptoms vary depending on the severity of your condition:

  • Whiteheads (closed plugged pores)
  • Blackheads (open plugged pores — the oil turns brown when it is exposed to air)
  • Small red, tender bumps (papules)
  • Pimples (pustules), which are papules with pus at their tips
  • Large, solid, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin (nodules)
  • Painful, pus-filled lumps beneath the surface of the skin (cystic lesions)

CAUSES

It is commonly caused by the following factors:

  • Bacteria
  • Increased skin oil production
  • Dead skin cells
  • Clogged pores

Acne typically appears on the areas of skin that have the most oil (sebaceous) glands, such as your face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. It occurs when hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. When your body produces an excess amount of oil and dead skin cells, the two can build up in the hair follicles. They form a soft plug, creating an environment where bacteria can thrive. If the clogged pore becomes infected with bacteria, inflammation results.

The plugged pore may cause the follicle wall to bulge and produce a whitehead. Or the plug may be open to the surface and may darken, causing a blackhead. A blackhead may look like dirt stuck in pores. But actually the pore is congested with bacteria and oil, which turns brown when it’s exposed to the air. Pimples are raised red spots with a white centre that develop when blocked hair follicles become inflamed or infected. Blockages and inflammation that develop deep inside hair follicles produce cyst-like lumps beneath the surface of your skin.

RISK FACTORS

  • Androgens. These are hormones that increase in boys and girls during puberty and cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. Some oral contraceptives and even pregnancy can affect androgen changes that can also affect sebum production.
  • Certain medications. Drugs containing corticosteroids, androgens or lithium can worsen acne.
  • Diet. Carbohydrate-rich foods (bread, pap, rice, potatoes, sweets, fruit and juices, pasta, bagels and chips) may trigger acne. Chocolate has long been suspected of making acne worse.
  • Stress. Stress can make acne worse.
  • Family history. Genetics plays a role in acne. If both parents had acne, you’re likely to develop it, too.

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