Acne is a very common condition, affecting up to 85% of young adults in Australia. Acne is commonest amongst teenagers, when hormone levels are changing, but can affect all age-groups from infants to elderly.
It is characterised by the presence of blackheads and whiteheads (known as comedones) and in more severe cases there is inflammation with pustules and cysts. Acne tends to affect areas rich in sebaceous (oil) glands such as the face, upper chest and back and blockage of the opening of the glands is thought to contribute to acne development. Normal bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) that live on the skin are thought to play a role, but this is not associated with a lack of cleanliness.
At The Skin Hospital
There are many treatment options for acne; this depends on many factors including acne severity.
- General measures. Greasy products can exacerbate acne by contributing to the blockage of oil glands. It is important to choose products (such as moisturisers and sunscreens) which are oil-free – the specialist can recommend appropriate products. Possible triggers of acne and the role of lifestyle factors such as diet can be discussed.
- Topical therapy. There are a variety of creams and gels that contain one of or a combination of the following active products: benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, and retinoids (a product related to vitamin A).
- Oral therapy (tablets). These are used if topical measures have failed. For females, the oral contraceptive pill may be effective. In men and women oral antibiotics can be used for reducing inflammation. Usually treatment over several months is required to see if these therapies provide benefit. In severe cases, for those unresponsive to standard treatments or at high risk of developing scarring, a tablet called isotretinoin (often know by the brand name “Roaccutane”) may be used. Before this tablet is started, your specialist will discuss with you the benefits, potential risks and possible side effects, as well as organising monitoring blood tests. Females will also be required to have regular pregnancy tests to ensure they are not pregnant as this medication could be harmful to the developing baby.
- Treating acne scarring. For the treatment of acne scarring please see the following link (acne scarring). It is important to control the active acne before any related scarring is treated.
Further information about acne can be obtained from the following trusted sites:
Authors: Dr Charlotte Thomas & Dr Nicholas Stewart
Dermatologists at The Skin Hospital to consult about your acne: