Acne (Pimples)

Acne (Pimples)

Back to top

Contents
Back to top

Acne Illustration
Illustration of acne (pimples) forming in the sebaceous glands
Acne can appear in different forms, which include: 2
Noninflammatory lesions (Comedones, i.e. whiteheads and blackheads)
When oil secretions, dead skin cells and sometimes bacteria clog up and block the openings of hair follicles, it causes the formation of Comedones. When comedones are open at the skin surface, they’re called blackheads because of the dark appearance of the plugs in the hair follicles.2d,3a On the other hand, When comedones are closed, they’re called whiteheads and are slightly raised skin-coloured bumps.1bg,3a
Back to top

Formation of Pimples and Acnes
Illustration showing the steps of acne from formation through eruption
Back to top

Inflammatory Lesions
The blocked, sebum-filled hair follicle promotes the overgrowth of a bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, which is usually present in the hair follicle. Subsequently, Propionibacterium acnes breaks down the sebum into substances that irritate the skin. This produces skin eruptions which we commonly refer to as acne pimples1g.
Inflammatory lesions take the form of: 2e
Illustration showing the different kinds of acne
 
Back to top

Symptoms
Most acne occurs on the face, but it is also common on the back, shoulders and upper chest. We can identify three levels of severity – mild, moderate and severe.9
Picture showing pimples of different levels of severity
Back to top

What Causes Acne?

Four main factors cause acne

These are:
  • Excess oil or sebum
  • Hair follicles clogged by oil and dead skin cells
  • Bacteria
  • Inflammation
Factors that can trigger or worsen acne include the following:2b   Hormones Firstly, male hormones called androgens increase in both boys and girls at puberty. Subsequently, they cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. Similarly, hormonal changes during midlife, particularly in women, can lead to breakouts.   Medications Secondly, medicines containing corticosteroids, androgens or lithium are known to cause acne.   Diet Thirdly, certain dietary factors, including carbohydrate-rich foods, for example bread and chips, may worsen acne.
  Treatment1cd
General care is very simple:
  • Gently washed any affected areas with mild soap once or twice a day.
  • Use water-based cosmetics as very greasy products can make acne worse.
  • Although there are no restrictions on specific foods that a person can eat, we should follow a healthy, balanced diet.
Beyond these routine measures, treatment depends on the severity of the condition.
Woman with healthy skin alongside a diet of healthy fruit and vegetables

  • Mild acne
Topical medicines are applied to the skin. They work by killing bacteria (antibacterial). Or alternatively, they dry up or unclog the pores. Antibacterials that are commonly used include the two antibiotics, clindamycin and erythromycin, and benzoyl peroxide. Other topical medicines are salicylic acid, resorcinol and sulphur. They work by drying out the pimples and cause slight peeling but are less effective than antibiotics or benzoyl peroxide. If topical antibacterials fail, doctors may prescribe other medicines that help to unclog the pores like tretinoin. While tretinoin is very effective, it irritates the skin and makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
  • Moderate acne

Oral antibiotics given by mouth are usually prescribed to treat moderate acne. Examples of these antibiotics include tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline and erythromycin.
  • Severe acne

When oral antibiotics are ineffective in treating severe cases, oral isotretinoin is considered the best treatment. Isotretinoin is the only medicine that can potentially cure acne. It is generally prescribed for 20 weeks. While isotretinoin is highly effective, it can have serious side effects. For instance, it can harm a developing foetus. Therefore, women taking isotretinoin must use strict contraceptive measures to ensure that they do not fall pregnant. Other people may need to use specific acne treatments. For example, a doctor may prescribe an oral contraceptive for a woman with severe acne that worsens with her menstrual period.  

Medical References

Acne and pimples Brochure Medical Resources

Content Disclaimer:
You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Dis-Chem website or app are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All of the content provided on the website, are for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content is not intended to establish a standard of care to be followed by a user of the website. You understand and acknowledge that you should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health. You also understand and acknowledge that you should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained in or transmitted through the website. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information on this website or on the linked websites should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided on this website or any linked websites is solely at your own risk.
Back to top