Acne - Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Acne - Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Posted by San Pedro Pediatric Medical Group on Apr 12 2023, 05:50 AM

Acne is a common skin condition that’s usually characterized by pimples on the face, chest, back, shoulders, and even buttocks. It’s most common in adolescents, but it can affect people of all ages. The exact cause of acne is unknown, but researchers believe multiple factors play a role. Understanding the causes can help you prevent and treat breakouts.

While the cause of acne isn’t fully understood, dermatologists have identified factors that may trigger outbreaks. These include:

  • Changes in hormone levels during puberty or pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Oily skin
  • Diet
  • Genetics
  • Medications that increase oil production in the skin
  • Bacteria that can cause inflammation in the follicles of the skin

These common triggers may explain some cases of acne but not necessarily all cases. Some individuals experience no identifiable cause for their breakouts.

The good news is there are effective acne treatments available. The key is to work with your doctor to determine which treatment is right for you based on your specific condition and needs.

How is acne diagnosed?

A diagnosis of acne is made by examining your skin and seeing if it contains blackheads and whiteheads, small red bumps, and/or large red lumps beneath the surface of the skin. You may also have cysts or nodules that are inflamed and painful to the touch. Your doctor may also take a sample of the skin lesion to be examined under a microscope to determine whether it is acne or some other condition. 

How is acne treated?

There are several types of medications that treat and prevent mild-to-moderate cases of acne. Topical prescription medications are creams or gels applied to the skin to treat and prevent breakouts. These typically contain topical retinoids, such as adapalene, tretinoin, and retinol. A topical antibiotic may be combined with these treatments to fight bacterial infections associated with acne. Other topical prescriptions include over-the-counter medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid that can help kill the bacteria that causes pimples. “Proactive” prescription-strength skincare products are also available that have ingredients like exfoliating acids or essential oils to help fight acne by unclogging pores and promoting healing. 

If prescription medication is not helping, your dermatologist may recommend oral isotretinoin (Accutane®) as a treatment option. This medication is typically reserved for patients with severe acne that do not respond to other therapies. Isotretinoin is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A that works to reduce sebum production in the skin, reducing the likelihood of clogged pores and infected blemishes. It may also reduce the growth of abnormal skin cells that can clog pores and cause comedones, whiteheads, and blackheads. Isotretinoin must be closely monitored and is only prescribed for the shortest amount of time possible due to potential side effects. Side effects can include dry and irritated skin, nosebleeds, dry eyes, and mouth, problem swallowing, joint and muscle pain, headaches, and burning eyes. Some patients also experience a change in mood or feelings of depression while taking this medication. 

Call San Pedro at (310) 832-6487 or schedule an online appointment to learn more about acne and its treatments.

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