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Acne is a chronic skin condition that develops when oil plugs form inside hair follicles, trapping bacteria inside the follicles where the warm environment allows them to grow rapidly, causing an infection. The immune system responds by sending out special cells to fight off the bacteria, resulting in pus formation and the swollen, red bumps we call pimples. Acne breakouts are more common on the face, back, shoulders, neck and upper arms, but it can occur elsewhere as well. Breakouts also tend to be more common during puberty and young adulthood, when hormonal fluctuations contribute to overproduction of skin oils, increasing the risk of pore blockages. About 17 million teens and adults suffer from moderate to severe acne in the U.S., often experiencing considerable emotional distress and anxiety in addition to the physical symptoms.
Although acne is common, it can be especially tricky to treat, and patients need to have ongoing treatment to ensure the products and methods used in their treatment remain optimized for their needs. Often, products and methods that work for some time eventually become less effective as the patient’s hormones or skin health change over time, or as the body develops a tolerance for those products and treatments. Fortunately, today there are more treatment options than ever to help patients manage their acne and prevent or lessen breakouts so they can enjoy clearer, healthier skin and reduce the risk of scarring. Topical and oral medications, laser treatments, microdermabrasion and other approaches can all be combined, depending on the patient’s specific needs. Patients need to be dedicated to their routine and care, and they also need to be patient since the effects of any new treatment can take several weeks to begin to show results.
One of the best ways to prevent breakouts is to see the dermatologist on a regular basis to ensure treatment remains “on track” for the patient’s specific needs. During each office visit, the skin will be carefully evaluated and patients will be asked about their symptoms as well as their compliance with their routine so any needed changes can be tailored specifically to their needs.