Print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of acne

Mate huahua

Illustration showing how acne forms. Starting with a normal pore, a clogged pore, inflammation starting and marked inflammation with scarringAcne is a common skin condition that happens when the hair follicles (pores on your skin) get plugged with oil and dead skin, causing pimples and spots.

Oil-producing glands (sebaceous glands) become sensitive to hormones and produce too much oil (sebum). At the same time the lining of the pores become thicker and dead skin cells are not shed properly.

The excess oil can also cause the bugs (bacteria) we all have on our skin to increase. They can then cause inflammation leading to red, pus-filled spots.

There are several different types of acne but the most common is called acne vulgaris. Although acne can occur at any age, it's most common when you're a teenager or young adult due to changes in your hormone levels.

In girls and women, hormone changes during your menstrual cycle or pregnancy can also lead to acne. Some females with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) suffer from acne.

Read more about what causes acne.

It's important to know that if you have acne, it can cause you a lot of distress and affect your mood and self-esteem. See your doctor or speak to someone you trust if you have any of these feelings.

Symptoms of acne

Acne nearly always affects the face but can occur on your neck, back and chest. It can range from being mild (a few spots) to severe (many spots and leaving marks or scars on your skin). Types of spots include:

Diagnosing acne

Usually, your doctor will diagnose acne by what the spots look like and where they are on your body. Tests aren't usually necessary but sometimes swabs are taken to check for any bacteria and in some females, hormone tests may be done.

How bad your acne is depends on the number, type and location of the spots. Knowing how severe it is will help you know where to go for help.

Treating acne

While there is no cure for acne, there are several treatments that can help stop new spots and scarring from occurring. They include creams that are applied directly onto your skin and oral medication. Treatment can take up to three months to work. See Treating acne and Treating severe acne with isotretinoin. Acne usually goes away by your early to mid-twenties.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Self-care for acne

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created August 2021.


Page reference: 884719

Review key: HIACN-20774