Acne is a common skin disorder that affects millions of people of all ages. It includes a number of skin problems, including blackheads and whiteheads, clogged pores, pimples and cysts that occur deep beneath the skin. Most teens are affected to some extent by acne, but for some people they do not go away after the late teens. Acne presents little health risk, but can leave permanent scars, cause low self-esteem and anxiety with respect to appearance, and it may take years treatment to get rid of it.
White and black lesions are the smallest and simplest of all acne lesions. These are follicles that become clogged with dead skin cells, tiny ingrown hairs, dirt and oil, and even bacteria. Blackheads are black due to the fact that the follicle is open and the excess material plug is visible. When the follicle closes on the cork, it appears as a skin or as a small bump. This is known as a whitehead. None of these should be exploded or depressed unless it is done by a dermatologist. There are tools available on the market to remove blackheads that consumers can safely use, including pore cleaners that remove blackheads and small appliances that use suction.
A pustule is the medical term that describes the most common lesion that occurs in acne, the pimple. A pustule is a lump, often red or infected, whose head or dome is covered with a thin layer of skin. The white dome is the result of the formation of dead cells, bacteria and pus under a layer of skin. This is the beginning of an acne cyst. If the pimple heals before reaching the cyst stage, it usually does not heal. Dermatologists have recommended not to burst or prick pimples as this introduces new bacteria into the lesion and can cause infections or scars.
Cysts and nodules are the most serious forms of acne. Nodules are large bumps that appear red or inflamed, but without the white head of a pimple. These extend deep into the skin and are difficult to treat. Because of their extension in the lower layers of the skin, they can cause permanent skin damage and scarring, even if they heal properly. Cysts are like nodules, except that they contain fluids and other substances such as dead blood cells. Both forms of acne are painful and can be very sensitive to touch. Cysts are considered rare in most forms of acne, but nodules can occur in people with occasional rashes.
Over-the-counter medications, usually containing salicylic acid, usually act on occasional and minor acne. But if you have constant pimples or if you have nodules or cysts, you may need to see a dermatologist. The faster the acne is treated, the less chance of scarring. In addition, heavy acne with many nodules can only respond to treatments involving isotretinoin. A licensed dermatologist can only administer isotretinoin. If you have acne for a long time and you have scars, most dermatologists can administer treatments such as chemical resurfacing, which can eliminate old scars and prevent further damage.