Acne vulgaris (or simply acne) is a long-term skin disease that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil from the skin. Acne is characterized by areas of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and greasy skin, and may result in scarring. The resulting appearance can lead to anxiety, reduced self-esteem and, in extreme cases, depression or thoughts of suicide.
Typical features of acne include seborrhea (increased oil secretion), microcomedones, comedones, papules, pustules, nodules (large papules), and in many cases scarring. The appearance of acne varies with skin color. It may result in psychological and social problems.
Acne scars are the result of inflammation within the dermal layer of skin, brought on by acne, and are estimated to affect 95% of people with acne vulgaris.The scar is created by an abnormal form of healing following this dermal inflammation. Scarring is most likely to occur with severe nodular acne, but may occur with any form of acne vulgaris. Acne scars are classified based on whether the abnormal healing response following dermal inflammation leads to excess collagen deposition or collagen loss at the site of the acne lesion.
Atrophic acne scars are the most common type of acne scar and have lost collagen from this healing response. Atrophic scars may be further classified as ice-pick scars, boxcar scars, and rolling scars. Ice-pick scars are typically described as narrow (less than 2 mm across), deep scars that extend into the dermis. Boxcar scars are round or ovoid indented scars with sharp borders and vary in size from 1.5–4 mm across. Rolling scars are wider than icepick and boxcar scars (4–5 mm across) and have a wave-like pattern of depth in the skin.
Hypertrophic scars are less common, and are characterized by increased collagen content after the abnormal healing response. They are described as firm and raised from the skin. Hypertrophic scars remain within the original margins of the wound, whereas keloid scars can form scar tissue outside of these borders. Keloid scars from acne usually occur in men, and usually occur on the trunk of the body rather than the face.
Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is usually the result of nodular acne lesions. They often leave behind an inflamed red mark after the original acne lesion has resolved. PIH occurs more often in people with darker skin color. Pigmented scar is a common but misleading term, as it suggests the color change is permanent. Often, PIH can be prevented by avoiding aggravation of the nodule. These scars can fade with time. However, untreated scars can last for months, years, or even be permanent if deeper layers of skin are affected. Daily use of SPF 15 or higher sunscreen can minimize pigmentation associated with acne.
Hormonal activity, such as occurs during menstrual cycles and puberty, may contribute to the formation of acne. During puberty, an increase in sex hormones called androgens causes the follicular glands to grow larger and make more sebum. Acne that first develops between the ages of 21 and 25 is uncommon. Several hormones have been linked to acne, including the androgens testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), as well as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and growth hormone (GH). Both androgens and IGF-1 seem to be essential for acne to occur, as acne does not develop in individuals with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) or Laron syndrome (insensitivity to GH, resulting in extremely low IGF-1 levels).
Medical conditions that commonly cause a high-androgen state, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and androgen-secreting tumors, can cause acne in affected individuals. Conversely, people who lack androgenic hormones or are insensitive to the effects of androgens rarely have acne. An increase in androgen (and sebum) synthesis may also be seen during pregnancy. Acne can be a side effect of testosterone replacement therapy or of anabolic steroid use. Anabolic steroids are commonly found in over-the-counter bodybuilding supplements.
Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is the anaerobic bacterium species that is widely suspected to contribute to the development of acne, but its exact role in this process is not entirely clear. There are specific sub-strains of P. acnes associated with normal skin and others with moderate or severe inflammatory acne. It is unclear whether these undesirable strains evolve on-site or are acquired, or possibly both depending on the person. These strains have the capability of either changing, perpetuating, or adapting to the abnormal cycle of inflammation, oil production, and inadequate sloughing of dead skin cells from acne pores. One particularly virulent strain has been circulating in Europe for at least 87 years.Infection with the parasitic mite Demodex is associated with the development of acne.However, it is unclear whether eradication of these mites improves acne.
The relationship between diet and acne is unclear, as there is no high-quality evidence which establishes any definitive link. High-glycemic-load diets have been found to have different degrees of effect on acne severity by different studies. Multiple randomized controlled trials and nonrandomized studies have found a lower-glycemic-load diet to be effective in reducing acne. Additionally, there is weak observational evidence suggesting that dairy milk consumption is positively associated with a higher incidence and severity of acne.Effects from other potentially contributing dietary factors, such as consumption of chocolate or salt, are not supported by the evidence. Chocolate does contain varying amounts of sugar, which can lead to a high glycemic load, and it can be made with or without milk. There may be a relationship between acne and insulin metabolism, and one trial found a relationship between acne and obesity. Vitamin B12 may trigger skin outbreaks similar to acne (acneiform eruptions), or exacerbate existing acne, when taken in doses exceeding the recommended daily intake.
Overall, few high-quality studies have been performed which demonstrate that stress causes or worsens acne. While the connection between acne and stress has been debated, some research indicates that increased acne severity is associated with high stress levels in certain settings (e.g., in association with the hormonal changes seen in premenstrual syndrome).
Acne Rosacea is a long term skin condition characterized by facial redness, small and superficial dilated blood vessels on facial skin, papules, pustules, and swelling. Rosacea typically begins as redness on the central face across the cheeks, nose, or forehead, but can also less commonly affect the neck, chest, ears, and scalp.In some cases, additional signs, such as semipermanent redness, dilation of superficial blood vessels on the face, red domed papules (small bumps) and pustules, red gritty eyes, burning and stinging sensations, and in some advanced cases, a red lobulated nose (rhinophyma), may develop.
Four rosacea subtypes exist,and a patient may have more than one subtype:
Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea exhibits permanent redness (erythema) with a tendency to flush and blush easily. It is also common to have small, widened blood vessels visible near the surface of the skin (telangiectasias) and possibly intense burning, stinging, or itching. People with this type often have sensitive skin. Skin can also become very dry and flaky. In addition to the face, signs can also appear on the ears, neck, chest, upper back, and scalp.
Papulopustular rosacea presents with some permanent redness with red bumps (papules); some pus-filled pustules can last 1–4 days or longer. This subtype is often confused with acne.
Phymatous rosacea is most commonly associated with rhinophyma, an enlargement of the nose. Signs include thickening skin, irregular surface nodularities, and enlargement. Phymatous rosacea can also affect the chin (gnathophyma), forehead (metophyma), cheeks, eyelids (blepharophyma), and ears (otophyma). Telangiectasias may be present.
In ocular rosacea, affected eyes and eyelids may appear red due to telangiectasias and inflammation, and may feel dry, irritated, or gritty. Other symptoms include foreign body sensations, itching, burning, stinging, and sensitivity to light. Eyes can become more susceptible to infection. About half of the people with subtypes 1–3 also have eye symptoms. Blurry vision and vision loss can occur if the cornea is affected.