Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Acne can't be prevented or cured, but it can be treated effectively

Date:
June 3, 2014
Source:
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Summary:
Recent advances in both medications and approaches to care have significantly reduced the impact acne once had on both skin and self-esteem. Acne doesn't discriminate by gender or race, and while it's most common in adolescents and young adults it can appear at later ages, especially in women. There's no way to prevent acne, there's no cure, and today's over-the-counter remedies contain the same basic ingredients as those on drugstore shelves decades ago.

Acne just won't go away. The skin condition characterized by unsightly blemishes remains one of the most common disorders there is, with an estimated 80 percent of all people having outbreaks at some point in their lives. Acne doesn't discriminate by gender or race, and while it's most common in adolescents and young adults it can appear at later ages, especially in women. There's no way to prevent acne, there's no cure, and today's over-the-counter remedies contain the same basic ingredients as those on drugstore shelves decades ago.

And acne won't just go away: Not treating it can actually make things worse.

But acne can be treated effectively. Recent advances in both medications and approaches to care have significantly reduced the impact it once had on both skin and self-esteem.

"Things are so much better today because there are so many more options for treating acne," said Sarah Taylor, M.D., a dermatologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "While OTC products are pretty much the same as they have been for years -- just different concentrations of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in various forms such as cleansers, gels and creams -- the prescription world has really changed in the past 10 years or so. We're much better equipped to deal with all different types of acne."

Acne occurs when the skin's pores become clogged. Each pore opens to a hair follicle containing a gland that produces oil called sebum, which helps keep skin soft. These follicle-gland units are largest and most numerous on the face, upper back and chest. When the glands produce too much oil the pores can become blocked and dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells can build up in them, forming the whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and other lesions commonly referred to as zits.

What triggers this process isn't clear. Hormonal changes are associated with the excess production of oil -- thus partially accounting for acne flare-ups in teens and pregnant women -- and heredity can be a factor, but research has shown that acne is not caused by dirty skin or by eating chocolate, pizza or greasy foods.

While non-prescription acne medications aren't necessarily all that new or improved, or that different from each other, they can be effective on mild acne.

"Over-the-counter products can work in many cases," said William Huang, M.D., another Wake Forest Baptist dermatologist. "But no matter what the TV ads may say, they take time, usually six to eight weeks. You're not going to have that overnight, here today-gone tomorrow phenomenon. That can be frustrating, especially for teenagers. Acne can cause them a lot of stress and affect their emotional well-being so they want something that works right away, but we don't have anything like that."

Dermatologists generally don't treat many patients with mild acne, because those problems can be cleared up by the proper use of consumer products or measures prescribed by a pediatrician or family doctor. Instead, Taylor said, "We tend to see people whose acne is out of control and has not been helped by OTC products or prescriptions from their regular doctor."

The National Institutes of Health recommends contacting a dermatologist if non-prescription measures don't help after a couple of months; the acne is bad (with, for example, a lot of redness around pimples, or the appearance of cysts), getting worse or spreading; or scars develop as the lesions clear up.

Skin specialists have both the expertise and the ability to prescribe stronger medications required to deal with more severe cases. Among the most widely successful strategies they employ is prescribing different topical medications -- which are frequently "coupled" in a single lotion, gel or other delivery substance -- in combination with oral antibiotics to address multiple causes and effects of acne.

"Just like with any condition, there isn't a magic bullet," Huang cautioned. "The treatment depends on the severity of the acne, the type of acne, where it's located and the patient's individual preference and motivation for treatment. But these multi-layered approaches that are tailored to the individual patient do work well."

Dermatologists also have advanced ways to treat scarring, including chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser technologies. And they're generally more cognizant of the psychological damage that acne can inflict.

"Whether it's because of personal experience or familiarity with studies that have been done on the subject, I'd say dermatologists as a whole are much more sensitive to the psycho-social aspects of acne than in the past," Huang said. "For me personally, it's something I can relate to."

"Some teenagers are very confident and self-assured even if their face looks terrible, so they're easy to deal with," Taylor said. "But then there are kids who become very depressed and withdrawn and may isolate themselves. With them I try to be hopeful and optimistic, upbeat and positive, to tell them that I know it's hard having this condition and to show some sympathy. Or empathy, really, because I had acne, too, when I was a teen."

But no matter how understanding dermatologists are, they -- like other clinicians -- face the problem of getting patients to follow their instructions.

"Compliance is definitely highest right before and right after doctor visits," Huang said. "But it falls off over time, and that can really hinder the effectiveness of any treatment."

To combat this, dermatologists are turning to new devices. Research studies, some conducted at Wake Forest Baptist, have found that tools such as Web-based surveys, email reminders and encouraging text messages can help increase teenage patients' proper use of acne medications.

"Consistency is the whole key to treating acne," Taylor said. "So anything that can promote that has to be a plus."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "Acne can't be prevented or cured, but it can be treated effectively." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603151002.htm>.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. (2014, June 3). Acne can't be prevented or cured, but it can be treated effectively. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603151002.htm
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "Acne can't be prevented or cured, but it can be treated effectively." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603151002.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins