Acne 101: What is Acne Vulgaris?

Lorde with Acne

Acne is a problem that I have been seeing frequently in my clinics. It's a condition that has plagued us since the moment our hormones began surging in early adolescence and can have serious physical and psychological effects on affected individuals. In line with skincare and beauty, I thought it would be useful for my readers to find out more about acne, the current recommendations for treatment and suggestions of what's available over the counter. This is Acne week and I hope you will enjoy this new series and take something away from Acne 101

What is Acne?

Acne vulgaris is a very common inflammatory skin condition. While often thought of as a disease of teenage years, its prevalence remains high into adulthood. Virtually 90% of adolescents have acne, and half of them continue to experience signs and symptoms as adults. By age 40, 1% of men and 5% of women still have lesions. In the UK, acne accounts for in excess of 3.5 million yearly visits to their family doctors.

Acne has can cause harmful psychological and social effects, as well as physical effects as it may result in permanent scarring. The earlier it can be identified, the better it can be managed, and with more favourable outcomes. 

What are the Features of Acne?

Acne presents as a spectrum of skin lesions. They are broadly grouped into non-inflammatory and inflammatory ones. Non-inflammatory lesions include open and closed comedones (blackheads and whiteheads, respectively). Inflammatory lesions include papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. This distinction is important in treatment. These spots can be found on the face, neck, chest and back - areas with the highest density of hair and sweat glands.

Other diseases can mimic acne such as rosacea, folliculitis, milia and keratosis pilaris, therefore it is important you seek medical attention to reach an appropriate diagnosis.

What are the Types of Acne?

There are different types of acne which and these are classified broadly into mild, moderate and severe:

Mild acne is typically confined to the face and is characterized by the existence of non-inflammatory closed and open comedones with very few inflammatory lesions.

Moderate acne is characterized by a greater number of inflammatory papules and pustules on the face and often mild disease on the chest and back.

Severe acne is when larger nodules and cysts can be found. In these instances, there is usually extensive acne on the chest and back.

The severity assessment is important as this predominately determines the best treatment method. This should be tailored to treat precursor lesions (microcomedones) and active inflammatory lesions. Milder cases would be best managed with creams lotions and ointments, whereas oral medications are suggested for more severe circumstances. Stay tuned for my next post on What Causes Acne?

Livia | The Skin and Beauty Blog

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