Acne and Rosacea
Acne is the most frequent skin condition in the United States. It is characterized by pimples that appear on the face, back and chest. Every year, about 80% of adolescents have some form of acne and about 5% of adults experience acne.
Acne is made up of two types of blemishes:
- Whiteheads/Blackheads, also known as comedones, are non-inflammatory and appear more on the face and shoulders. As long as they remain uninfected, they are unlikely to lead to scarring.
- Red Pustules or Papules are inflamed pores that fill with pus. These can lead to scarring.
In normal skin, oil glands under the skin, known as sebaceous glands, produce an oily substance called sebum. The sebum moves from the bottom to the top of each hair follicle and then spills out onto the surface of the skin, taking with it sloughed-off skin cells. With acne, the structure through which the sebum flows gets plugged up. This blockage traps sebum and sloughed-off cells below the skin, preventing them from being released onto the skin’s surface. If the pore’s opening is fully blocked, this produces a whitehead. If the pore’s opening is open, this produces blackheads. When either a whitehead or blackhead becomes inflammed, they can become red pustules or papules.
It is important for patients not to pick or scratch at individual lesions because it can make them inflamed and can lead to long-term scarring.
Treating acne is a relatively slow process; there is no overnight remedy. Some treatments include:
- Benzoyl Peroxide — Used in mild cases of acne, benzoyl peroxide reduces the blockages in the hair follicles.
- Oral and Topical Antibiotics — Used to treat any infection in the pores.
- Hormonal Treatments — Can be used for adult women with hormonally induced acne.
- Tretinoin — A derivative of Vitamin A, tretinoin helps unplug the blocked-up material in whiteheads/blackheads. It has become a mainstay in the treatment of acne.
- Extraction — Removal of whiteheads and blackheads using a small metal instrument that is centered on the comedone and pushed down, extruding the blocked pore.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes facial redness, acne-like pimples, visible small blood vessels on the face, swelling and/or watery, irritated eyes. This inflammation of the face can affect the cheeks, nose, chin, forehead or eyelids. More than 14 million Americans suffer from rosacea. It is not contagious, but there is some evidence to suggest that it is inherited. There is no known cause or cure for rosacea. There is also no link between rosacea and cancer.
Rosacea generally begins after age 30 and goes through cycles of flare-ups and remissions. Over time, it gets ruddier in color and small blood vessels (like spider veins) may appear on the face. If left untreated, bumps and pimples may form, the end of the nose may become swollen, red and bulbous and eyes may water or become irritated.
Rosacea occurs most often among people with fair skin who tend to blush or flush easily. It occurs more often among women than men, but men tend to suffer from more severe symptoms. Most patients experience multiple symptoms at varying levels of severity. Common symptoms include:
- persistently red skin on the face
- bumps or acne-like pimples
- visible blood vessels on facial skin
- watery or irritated eyes
- burning, itching or stinging of facial skin
- skin roughness and dryness
- raised red patches
- swelling (edema)
These symptoms may also appear on the neck, chest, scalp and ears.
Research conducted by the National Rosacea Foundation found that the leading triggers for rosacea are:
- sun exposure
- hot or cold weather
- emotional stress
- heavy exercise
- spicy foods
- hot baths
- heated beverages
- some skin care products
- indoor heat
While there is no cure for rosacea and each case is unique, your doctor will probably prescribe oral antibiotics and topical medications to reduce the severity of the symptoms. When the condition goes into remission, only topical treatments may be needed. In more severe cases, a vascular laser, intense pulsed light source or other medical device may be used to remove any visible blood vessels and reduce excess redness and bumpiness on the nose.
To help reduce the incidence of flare-ups, a gentle daily skin care routine is recommended that includes the use of mild, non-abrasive cleansers, soft cloths, rinsing in lukewarm water (not hot or cold), and blotting the face dry (not rubbing). Additionally, individuals with rosacea need to protect themselves from sun exposure by using sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher and sunblocks that eliminate UVA and UVB rays. Patients are also encouraged to keep a record of flare-ups to try and determine the lifestyle and environmental triggers that aggravate the condition.