Acne is a very common skin condition characterised by comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and pus-filled spots (pustules). It usually starts at puberty and varies in severity from a few spots on the face, neck, back and chest, which most adolescents will have at some time, to a more significant problem that may cause scarring and impact on self-confidence. For the majority it tends to resolve by the late teens or early twenties, but it can persist for longer in some people. Acne can develop for the first time in people in their late twenties or even the thirties.
What causes acne?
The sebaceous (oil-producing) glands of people who get acne may be particularly sensitive and responsive to normal blood levels of a variety of hormones. This causes the glands to produce an excess of oil. At the same time, the dead skin cells lining the pores are not shed properly and clog up the follicles. These two effects result in a build up of oil, producing blackheads (where a darkened plug of oil is visible) and whiteheads. In this environment, the acne bacterium (known as Propionibacterium acnes) that live on everyone’s skin, can trigger a vigourous inflammatory response leading to the typical signs of acne.
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