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Acne Treatment

What is Acne?

Many individualsl experience acne at some point in life. It is most prominently found in teens going through puberty, but for many, acne persists well into adulthood. There are many myths or uncertainties about acne, as the condition is not always widely understood by sufferers.

Acne is caused when pores become blocked or closed. Bacteria begin to accumulate and the sebaceous gland continues to create sebum, which normally escapes through an open pore. As the sebum and bacteria become trapped underneath the skin's surface, what is often referred to as a "whitehead" may develop. If the sebum escapes to the surface, it may oxidize and turn black, forming a blackhead.

Whiteheads and blackheads are considered non-inflammatory acne. Inflammatory acne refers to papules and pustules. Cystic acne and other deeper forms exist and may be called inflammatory as well.

A papule will develop when white blood cells rush to attack the bacteria through a break in the follicle wall. As the white blood cells accumulate under the surface of the skin, a pustule forms, which is commonly seen as a painful mass beneath the skin.

Several treatment options are available for those suffering from various types of acne. Many treatments are applied topically, while others are taken orally.

Who is a candidate for Acne Treatment?

Treatment options for acne vary greatly to suit different skin types and conditions.  The side effects associated with each treatment or medication may vary greatly as well.

Those susceptible to dry or irritable skin should consult a physician prior to beginning any acne treatment. Also, women planning to become pregnant, pregnant women, and those breastfeeding should speak with a doctor before beginning treatment. A physician may go over any details or possible side effects in great detail to determine if the patient is a candidate for each treatment.

How is Acne Treatment usually administered?

Acne treatment may be administered in a topical cream, gel, wash, etc. Some treatment options may call for an ingestible antibiotic to be used, while some treatments require the use of contraceptives to fight acne. Llaser treatment options may also be used to fightl.

Benzoyl peroxide may be recommended for individuals suffering from mild cases of non-inflammatory acne. It is a topical treatment that works by fighting the P. acne bacteria that may cause acne to form.

Another topical treatment that may be used is salicylic acid, which works by causing the skin to slough and thus dries out acne pimples. This treatment also tends to work best for individuals with mild acne. Other topical treatment options such as Tretinoin and Adapalene may also be used to treat acne. 

Another option patients may choose is Isotretinoin, which is meant to restrict the function of the sebaceous gland, thus decreasing the amount of sebum produced. Common oral antibiotic treatments for acne include tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline and erythromycin. Similar to benzoyl peroxide, these antibiotics work by inhibiting the production of P. acne by the body. As is true with benzoyl peroxide, the treatment may no longer be effective if the patient stops applying or taking the medication.

In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed along with other topical treatments for sufferers of more severe types of acne. All patients should follow their physician's instructions regarding medications and dosage requirements.

Contraceptives may be effective in fighting acne as well.  Contraceptives generally work by suppressing the production of androgens, which may be responsible for causing oil-producing glands to produce even more oil.

Inhibiting the production of androgens in the ovaries and/or adrenal glands, contraceptives, and treatment combinations involving contraceptives, may be helpful in preventing acne. Women should always consult a physician before taking contraceptives for any reason.

Laser or light therapies may also be of some use to those suffering from acne. Blue light may be effective for those suffering from less severe cases of acne. A byproduct of bacteria, porphyrin in the skin absorbs the blue light, creating a chemical reaction that may destroy the bacteria. 

Red light may help to reduce inflammation, although cases treated with light therapy may reappear after several months to a year. The effectiveness of laser therapy on acne may vary, as very few lasers have been proven to treat acne. A pulse-dyed laser and the 1450 nm infrared laser may reduce the lesions on one's skin and drastically reduce acne in patients.

Another treatment that may be used in the treatment of acne is photodynamic therapy. This treatment works by combining a drug called a photosynthesizer and a light source.  When combined, the drug and light may destroy the sebaceous glands that produce sebum. Some patients may also treat acne using radiofrequency therapy, which may reduce the appearance of acne for many patients. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion may also be effective in treating acne and rejuvenating the skin.

What risks and concerns may be involved?

Risks for each patient may vary depending on the treatment, skin type, and any allergies. Common side effects of acne treatment include dry skin, a reddish appearance of the skin, irritation of the skin, dermatitis and, in rare cases, may cause allergic reactions in some patients.

Antibiotics used to treat acne may cause side effects including upset stomach, photosensitivity, dizziness, hives, lupus symptoms and discoloration of the skin. Women may experience a higher occurrence of vaginal yeast infections, so consulting a physician before using any antibiotics is strongly encouraged.

Laser treatments, radiofrequency therapy and photodynamic therapy may cause pain from the treatment, as well as redness and swelling. Light therapies may lead to a darkening of the skin in some ethnicities and irritation comparable to sun exposure.

There are more severe side effects associated with some treatment options, especially those involving Isotretinoin, so consulting with a physician before beginning acne treatment is strongly encouraged.

What is the cost of Acne Treatment?

Acne treatment costs vary based on location, the dermatologist, demand, the time and effort required during the procedure, as well as what's required during the procedure from start to finish.

Generally, acne treatments may cost anywhere from $20-$100 for topical treatments, while laser therapy may run between $2000 and $3000. Chemical peels may cost around $500, while antibiotics may cost anywhere from $50 to $500. The exact cost of your procedure is of course highly variable and based on your specific situation, as well as your insurance provider.  To consult with a dermatologist and discuss acne treatment and the overall cost, find a dermatologist in your area that is right for you.

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.

By Staff
Updated: November 10, 2008

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