Treatment Of Acne
Many teens suffer from acne. Obviously, acne can have significant negative effects on confidence and self-esteem. The good news is that we have very effective medications for the treatment of acne.
It is important to understand the basic factors that cause acne in order to understand how acne medications work.
The 4 main factors causing the formation of pimples are:
- clogged pores
- increased oil production
- bacteria on the skin
Acne is not caused by dirt or inadequate washing of the skin. Dead skin cells fail to shed properly and clog the pores, leading to inflammation. Acne lesions consist of non-inflammatory open and closed comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and inflammatory papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.
Acne medications are chosen based on the types of lesions present (non-inflammatory vs. inflammatory) and the overall severity of the problem. Some medications are meant to unclog the pores and some are aimed at reducing inflammation.
Commonly used topical medications for acne include benzoyl peroxide, benzoyl peroxide-antibiotic combination products and retinoids (e.g., adapalene, tretinoin, and tazarotene). For more moderate to severe cases of acne, oral antibiotics or isotretinoin (Accutane™) may be needed. In general, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids work to unclog the pores, while topical and oral antibiotics kill bacteria and reduce inflammation. Isotretinoin is used for more severe cases of nodulocystic acne.
All medications have potential side effects. Your doctor should counsel you regarding the most common side effects associated with your medications and any steps you can take to minimize potential problems. For instance, all pills should be taken with plenty of water to avoid irritation of the GI tract and many antibiotics should be taken with food to reduce the risk of nausea. Topical retinoids typically cause some dryness and irritation of the skin, particularly during the first few weeks of regular use. They may also cause increased sensitivity to the sun. Your doctor should review proper application of topical medications, review daily skin care, and recommend appropriate products for cleansing, moisturizing and photoprotection.
Medications will only work if you use them. You must be patient. It takes at least 6-8 weeks of consistent use of medications to see significant improvement in acne. Remember that residual discoloration (i.e., red, purple and/or dark spots) is not permanent scarring and will gradually resolve over time. Again, daily use of a good sunscreen is helpful.