Acne doesn’t differentiate between caste, creed, gender or age and is indeed very common all over the world; it’s estimated to affect about 660 million people globally, thus making it the 8th most common disease of the world. Those between the ages of 12-25 years are its commonest victims with about 80-90% of adolescents being afflicted with this condition that can leave its mark on the face and sometimes on the mind too!
Acne is basically a skin disease that occurs due to clogging of hair follicles with dead skin cells and sebum from the skin’s sebaceous glands. It occurs in three forms – as black heads, white heads and with pimples which are the commonest. Deeper nodules or lumps can also form under the skin in severe cases resulting in cystic acne that can become inflamed, painful and sometimes infected too. These lesions occur mostly on the face, but in rare case can be seen on the neck, back, chest and upper arms also. The severity of the condition also varies, with majority having the mild form; however in those with the severe form, it can leave the sensitive-minded adolescents with a lowered sense of self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
It’s estimated that about 30% of teenagers have acne bad enough to require seeing a dermatologist to prevent scarring, with boys being more commonly afflicted than girls. Though these lesions usually clear out on their own after about 3-5 years, they can last much longer in some people.
Acne is often brought on by the onset of puberty and its associated hike in hormones; though there are many myths floating around that acne is aggravated by chocolates, sunlight, cigarettes, fatty foods and hygiene, they appear to be myths only. It appears that excessive proliferation of the normal skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes is also a contributing factor to these lesions.
Certain oral contraceptives and IUDs can also trigger a round of acne in women. Steroids taken by bodybuilders and athletes have been implicated with outbreaks of these lesions too.
There is another unfortunate sub-type of acne that affects babies and infants and though it lasts for a few weeks in babies before subsiding, the infants can have it for longer and end up with scarring.
Acne is treatable and a timely visit to a dermatologist can save you from unsightly scarring for life. Frequent washing and scrubbing with acerbic agents doesn’t help, rather use a mild antiseptic soap twice a day and any ointments, lotions, gels or pills that your doctor recommends. Avoid the use of greasy creams and makeup as they will only clog the pores further. But most of all follow the advice of your doctor instead of being misled by a myriad of myths!