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Acne is a common skin condition that causes pimples. People with oily skin are more prone to develop acne. It usually starts at puberty (10 to 13 years). It affects newborns and infants as well. Many people also develop acne due to hormonal changes and heredity.

Acne is caused when secretions from sebaceous glands block the minute openings of the hair follicle. It is mainly seen on the face. However, it may also develop on the upper arms, shoulder, back, neck, and chest. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. This condition is not serious but it may leave skin with scars. 


Acne can be mild, moderate or severe depending upon the symptoms.

  • Mild acne:Blackheads (blocked pores which are open), whiteheads (blocked pores with no pore opening)
  • Moderate acne: Papules (pore walls are ruptured), pustules (pus filled, pore walls are ruptured)
  • Severe acne: Nodules (clogged and swollen pores), cysts (pores are clogged with bacteria)


Acne is caused by blockage of small pores of hair follicles with bacteria, greasy secretions (sebum) and dead skin cells.   Acne is mainly caused due to:

  • Hormonal changes (puberty and pregnancy)
  • Use of lithium  for treating bipolar disorder
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Intra uterine devices
  • Greasy cosmetics
  • Contraceptives


The following are the risk factors of acne:

  • Pressure on skin (tight helmets, headband)
  • Medications (steroids, lithium)
  • Female gender
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Puberty
  • Stress


Skin scarring is a major complication of acne. Severe acne, squeezing and pricking the pimples and pustules causes skin scarring. It is advised not to irritate the acne to prevent further complications.


Physical examination:

Physical examination includes checking the face, neck, shoulder, chest, back and upper arms for acne. The doctor may also check for the presence of whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, pustules, nodules and cysts.

Blood tests:

In females, acne is associated with hormonal changes. Blood tests are done to check the levels of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Ultrasound tests:

Ultrasound test is performed to further evaluate acne in people suffering from the polycystic ovarian syndrome. This test also helps in identifying the presence of cysts and enlarged ovaries.


Acne treatment aims to control acne, prevent scarring and scar lightening.


Acne treatment

A specific treatment is provided based on the type and severity of acne. Mild acne is treated with over-the-counter soaps, creams, lotions, and pads. Creams and lotions are good for sensitive skin. Alcohol-containing products are useful for oily skin.

Moderate and severe acne need dermatologist consultation. Oral or topical antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infection. Oral contraceptives are used to control overactive gland and maintain hormone levels. Topical retinoids (vitamin A) are helpful to clear blocked pores and prevent the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. Oral retinoids are used to treat severe acne. 

Light therapy is employed to kill the bacteria causing acne. A chemical peel is a technique wherein salicylic acid solution is applied repeatedly on acne. The blackheads and whiteheads are removed with a special instrument by the dermatologist.

Scar treatment

Corticosteroid injection is useful in severe acne to prevent rupturing and scarring.  Already formed scars are lightened with the use of acids. Skin appearance is improved with laser resurfacing. New skin formation is enhanced by passing the light to dermis without affecting epidermis by light therapy. Skin scars are treated surgically with the help of skin grafts. Severe scars are treated with dermabrasion. 


Acne is a skin condition and can be prevented by following ways:

  • Use acne specific soaps, creams and lotions
  • Clean spectacles, scarf, and headband
  • Avoid bursting and scrubbing pimples
  • Avoid touching the face frequently >
  • Apply creams and lotions
  • Avoid greasy make-up
  • Clean the hair regularly
  • Maintain hygiene
  • Avoid stress

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