Sunday, April 15, 2012

Acne Basics - What Is Acne?

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The answer to “What is acne?” is that it is a skin disease that is common but comes in many types and severities. Acne occurs when pores are clogged with sebum and bacteria. Acne affects most people at some point in their lives - usually when they are teenagers. But it isn’t exclusive to adolescence and it can be a bigger problem for a lot of individuals. To understand acne, it is important to know how it all begins.

What is Acne - The Skin Condition

Our hair grows through follicles, which are tiny openings that can be seen on the skin’s surface. At the base of follicles are sebaceous glands. These produce an oil called “sebum”. Sebum is what keeps the skin soft and pliable. Hair grows through the follicle and the sebum is expressed out the sides, spreading itself around the area. Also, skin cells die and are usually rubbed or washed away. This process is halted when pores close up, trapping the oils and causing bacteria to form. Acne is the result of these clogged pores.

Pimples are formed from white blood cells, bacteria and dead skin cells. The pus that that is trapped inside a pimple causes the skin around it to be red and inflamed. “Pus” is a word adapted from “pustule”. Pustules are a kind of acne that occur when the wall of the follicle bursts and white blood cells rush to the area in order to start the process of healing.

Blackheads are spots that appear because of the material having come to the surface. It is not inflamed. Many people mistakenly believe that the dark debris is dirt. In fact, it is caused by a chemical reaction. The dark area occurs because of air hitting the skin cells and oils. This oxidizes and makes the materials turn black.

If the materials don’t break through the skin, they will push up and form a white bump over it. This is called a whitehead - what we commonly think of as a pimple. Most often, dead skin is washed away or falls off the surface of the skin. But dead skin cells can get trapped. This type of acne sometimes happens in infants as well as people of any age.

The general term for this is “comedones”. Clinically, the difference between whiteheads and blackheads is determined by whether the formation remains open or is closed.

Developing acne may form in three different ways:

1.       Papules are made when the walls of the hair follicles burst near the skin’s surface. They are always small and do not have pus inside them.

2.       Nodules form because of a break at the follicle’s base.

3.       Cysts are larger and deeper red. They aren’t hard like the nodules, but they can be extremely painful.

What is acne? It is a skin condition that requires medical treatment. In order to treat acne, you need to know the type of acne with which you have been afflicted. That will be the subject of the next article.

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