List of Diseases > Acne

Acne (commonly known as ‘pimples’ or ‘zits’) is a skin condition that often causes far more damage to the patient's psyche than it does to the patient's skin. The bigger problem with acne is that just when you feel the last one is about to disappear, another one seems to be right on the way and this can be quite frustrating.

Acne is usually seen to afflict teenagers and young adults though it can affect people of any age group. The condition is not life threatening as such but it can lead to scarring of the skin especially in severe cases and hence it calls for prompt treatment. Homeopathy can treat the disease from the roots thereby giving the patients a healthy skin, an overall feeling of well being as well as renewed self-esteem!


What is Acne?

‘Hope was a pathological part of puberty, like acne and surging hormones.’ - Jodi Picoult

Acne is indeed a part of puberty for a large number of people besides being one of the most common skin diseases. Acne is characterized by pimples on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, back and upper arms caused by clogging of pores in the skin due to excess sebum (oil) production.

The condition is not restricted to any particular age group though it is seen to affect teenagers and young people more commonly. It affects males and females equally; however the patterns of affection vary amongst the two. Young men tend to get more severe outbreaks whereas women tend to have an intermittent pattern (usually related to their menstrual cycles).

Whiteheads (Closed comedones): These appear as tiny whitish bumps on the skin; here the plugged follicle stays below the surface of the skin.

Blackheads (Open comedones): The appearance of these is dark or blackish bumps on the skin; here the plugged follicle has developed a melanin build-up (which gives the dark color)

Papules: These are small, firm pink bumps on the skin and can be tender to touch.

Pustules: Small round eruptions on the skin that contain pus and are painful.

Nodules / Cyst: These are larger eruptions that are usually deep seated within the skin, are severely inflamed and painful. Nodules last a long period running into several weeks or months and the contents usually harden and leave behind deep scars.

In majority of cases, the condition begins around the age of 10 to 13 years. Certain studies cite that almost 85 to 100% of people between 12 to 17 years of age have had at least occasional whiteheads, blackheads or pimples regardless of their race and ethnicity.


Types of Acne

“No matter what is the type of acne, it is always a cause of distress for the patient.”

There are different types of Acne which affect people; some are milder in nature and others that are very severe. Discussed here are some of the common variants:

Acne Vulgaris - the common variety
This is the most common form of acne. Acne vulgaris involves multiple lesions such as whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules and nodules at various stages of development.

Acne Rosacea - the picture’s not so rosy
This form usually affects the middle third of the face and is characterized by persistent redness of the forehead, lower part of nose, cheeks and chin. This is accompanied by red bumps, pimples and blemishes. The blood vessels on the face are seen more prominently in this condition. Acne rosacea is more common in women but it tends to be more severe in men. It largely affects adults (30 to 50 years of age) and especially those with a fair skin.

Acne Conglobata - the severe variant 
Acne conglobata is more common amongst males as compared to females and the average age of onset is usually between 18 and 30 years. It is a chronic and severe form of acne which is characterized by severe inflammation, deep abscesses and severe scarring of the skin. There is formation of deep ulcers under the nodules leading to keloid-type of scars.

Acne Fulminans - too much, too soon
Acne fulminans is a form of acne which is characterized by sudden onset of highly destructive inflammation. The symptoms are of severe nature and often may lead to ulcerations. The patient may also present with fever, inflammation and aching of joints (hips and knees).

Nodulocystic Acne - hard and painful 
This is also one of the severe forms of acne and is characterized by cysts, which may measure several centimeters in diameter. The cysts may occur singly or in multiples over the face, neck, scalp, back, chest and shoulders. The cysts are generally filled with thick, yellow pus-like fluid and can be quite painful.

Gram Negative Folliculitis - the stubborn one’s here
This includes inflammatory lesions which are common in people who are undergoing long term antibiotic treatment for severe acne. This form is usually resistant to many antibiotics.


Causes of Acne

“Why me of all the people in this world?”

There have been numerous explanations cited as to why acne occurs in some people and not in others. Innumerable debates have taken place as to what is related and what is not related to the development of these eruptions. However, the actual and precise cause of acne still remains a mystery.

The process by which a pimple is formed is very intricate and occurs as described here:

“The pores (hair follicles) in our skin are closely associated with oil glands called ‘sebaceous glands’ which produce sebum. Sebum is an oily substance that lubricates our hair and skin.

When sebum is being secreted, the dead skin cells are also being expelled from the lining of the pore at the same time. Sometimes, when too much sebum is produced, it accumulates, thus clogging the pore.

When the pore gets blocked, the sebum or dead skin cells cannot leave the pore. This leads to swelling around the pore and the result is acne. At times, bacteria can also build up inside leading to the formation of pus.”

Listed here are some of the most common causes of increased sebum production which ultimately leads to the formation of acne:

1. Hormones – Acne is precipitated by androgens, the male hormones that are present in both males as well as females. The oil surplus created by these hormones has been thought to be instrumental in clogging hair follicles.

Hormonal changes occur with puberty, menstrual periods, pregnancy, use of birth control pills, menopause and each of these is a potential state for developing acne.

2. Genetics – Heredity plays a significant role in the development and persistence of acne.

3. Medications – Certain medications such as Steroids, Testosterone injections and pills, Danazol, Lithium, Dilentin, Marijuana, etc. can lead to severe outbreaks of acne in some individuals.

4. Stress – The changes induced by stress have been extensively studied over many decades and hormonal change is one of the chief results of stress which can lead to acne.

5. Bacteria - Propionibacterium acnes is a normal inhabitant of the skin and thrives on sebum. People with acne have more of these bacteria as compared to people without acne.

6. Diet – This area largely remains grey due to a wide disparity in opinions of dermatologists as well as patients. There are two groups herein – one which believes diet has no role to play in acne and the other one which strongly believes in the role of diet.

The latter group holds that following types of foods worsen acne and may lead to outbreaks: Spicy foods, caffeine, excessive sweets, alcohol, chocolates, red meat, corn, gluten, etc.


Social Impact of Acne

Helping patients to face the world with confidence!

Acne can have a significant impact on one’s outlook towards life and this fact has existed for a long time though it has been appreciated only recently. A large number of studies have been conducted on acne patients to see what impact this condition makes on their psyche and the following are commonly detected:

  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor body image
  • Low confidence levels
  • Embarrassment
  • Depression
  • Anger, frustration
  • Preoccupation with looks

These are often interlinked and can progressively worsen if not treated in time. Existence of these conditions often discourages the patients from pursuing opportunities at their workplace or in their personal lives.

The treatment of acne patients must be targeted not only at the eruptions but also at improving the self esteem of these patients.


Self Care Tips for Acne

Help is here at last!

Here are some tips for you to follow in case you suffer from outbreaks of acne, and even if you don’t need them yourself, you can pass them on to a friend who is in need.

These tips have been derived from the vast experience of our nutritionist from London and our qualified and experienced dermatologists who are an integral part of our team of doctors.

Dietary tips:

  • Sulphur-rich foods such as onions and garlic are helpful in reducing outbreaks
  • Increase zinc-rich foods such as soybeans, whole grains, sunflower seeds and raw nuts
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid sugar, cigarettes, fried and high-fat foods
  • Keep dairy items and red meat to a minimum

Skin care in general:

  • Avoid scrubbing hard / over-washing acne-afflicted areas
  • Avoid touching your face often
  • Do not squeeze pimples since this can push the infection further into the skin
  • Protect your skin from the sun
  • Keep your hair clean and keep it away from the face
  • Avoid using greasy or cream based make-up
  • Always remove make-up before going to sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • After a heavy workout or exercise, take a bath because the sweat on skin can trap bacteria
  • Always use clean clothes which allow your skin to breathe




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