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Acne

Acne is a common skin disease characterised by pimples on the face, chest and back. It occurs when the pores of the skin become clogged with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria.

Acne vulgaris, the medical term for common acne, is the most common skin disease. While acne can arise at any age, it usually begins at puberty and worsens during adolescence. Nearly 85% of people develop acne at some time between the ages of 12-25 years. Up to 20% of women develop mild acne. It is also found in some new-borns.

The sebaceous glands lie just beneath the skin's surface. They produce an oil called sebum, the skin's natural moisturiser. These glands and the hair follicles within which they are found are called sebaceous follicles. The follicles open onto the skin through pores. At puberty, increased levels of androgens (male hormones) cause the glands to produce too much sebum. When excess sebum combines with dead, sticky skin cells, a hard plug, or comedo, forms that blocks the pore. Mild non-inflammatory acne consists of the two types of comedones, whiteheads and blackheads.

Moderate and severe inflammatory types of acne result after the plugged follicle is invaded by Propioni-bacterium acnes, a bacterium that normally lives on the skin. A pimple forms when the damaged follicle weakens and bursts open, releasing sebum, bacteria, and skin and white blood cells into the surrounding tissues. Inflamed pimples near the skin's surface are called papules; when deeper, they are called pustules. The most severe type of acne consists of cysts (closed sacs) and nodules (hard swellings). Scarring occurs when new skin cells are laid down to replace damaged cells.
The most common sites of acne are the face, chest, shoulders, and back since these are the parts of the body where the most sebaceous follicles are found.

Self-help

Acne is primarily a skin condition, not an infection, and as it can not be cured treatments aim to control the symptoms.

It is important to keep spot-prone areas clean, so the affected area should be washed twice a day with an unperfumed cleanser. The skin needs a certain amount of oil to maintain its natural condition, so gentle soaps should be used and the skin not scrubbed hard when washing.

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