Can more serious forms of acne be treated?
Yes. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment for you.
Moderate to moderately severe acne. This type of acne consists of several whiteheads, blackheads, papules and pustules that cover from ¼ to ¾ of the face and/or other parts of the body. It can be treated with antibiotic lotions or gels, as well as retinoic acid. Retinoic acid is an altered form of vitamin A. It helps prevent whiteheads and blackheads. Your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic pill, such as erythromycin. If you take birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, antibiotics can affect how well they work. Be sure to use a second method of birth control with the pill, such as a condom. Retinoic acid and antibiotic pills can make the skin sensitive to the sun. So, wear sunscreen and stay in the shade while using them.
Severe acne. Severe acne consists of deep cysts, redness, swelling, extreme damage to the skin and scarring. You should see a dermatologist to care for this type of acne. Scarring can be prevented with appropriate treatments. Your dermatologist can prescribe oral antibiotics and oral contraceptives. Large inflamed cysts can be treated with an injection of a drug that lessens the redness, swelling, and irritation, and promotes healing.
Your dermatologist may prescribe Accutane®, if other treatments have not worked. This is a strong medicine that can help prevent scarring and treat active disease. But, Accutane also can cause birth defects. It is important that you are not pregnant and do not plan to get pregnant while taking this medicine. You must use two methods of birth control at the same time. This is done for one month before treatment begins, during treatment, and for a full month after stopping the drug.
Talk with your dermatologist about when it's safe to get pregnant. Other side effects of this drug may include dry eyes, itching, mood changes, and changes in the blood and liver. You and your dermatologist can decide whether this medicine is right for you based on the pros and cons. Use any prescribed medicine exactly as you are advised. Taking more medicine than you are supposed to take may make acne or your general health worse. Ask your doctor what to do if you miss a dose.
Some large cysts do not respond to medication and may need to be drained or removed. Your dermatologist is the only person who should drain or remove these. You should never try to drain or remove your acne by squeezing or picking. This can lead to infection, worsen your acne, and cause scarring.
Overall, if you don't see a change in your skin in six to eight weeks, talk with your doctor about your treatment plan.
Can birth control pills help treat acne?
For women who break out mainly around their menstrual cycle, some birth control pills can help. Research shows that these pills can clear acne by slowing down overactive oil glands in the skin. Sometimes, birth control pills are used along with a drug called spironolactone to treat acne in adult females. This medication lowers levels of the hormone androgen in the body. Androgen stimulates the skin's oil glands. Side effects of this drug include irregular menstruation, breast tenderness, headache and fatigue. Spironolactone is not appropriate therapy for all patients.
When is surgery used for acne scarring?
If you have scarring, your dermatologist may suggest surgery to help heal acne lesions and remove scarring. A laser can reshape scar tissue and reduce redness. Dermabrasion is a type of surgery that can remove surface scars and reduce the depth of deep scars. Another option is to transfer fat from one part of the body to the face. In some cases, a single treatment can help scarring. But for lasting results, several are often needed. There are also topical treatments for acne scarring.
Photodynamic therapy is a new acne treatment. It begins with light microdermabrasion. This is used to remove dead skin cells on the face's surface. Then, an acid is put on the skin for 30 to 60 minutes. After this period, the acid is taken off. Lastly, the skin is treated with a laser. This treatment is still being researched, but seems to give positive long-term results.
How can I help prevent acne and acne scars?
You can help prevent acne flare-ups and scars by taking good care of your skin:
- Clean your skin gently with a mild soap or cleanser twice a day — once in the morning and once at night. You should also gently clean the skin after heavy exercise. Avoid strong soaps and rough scrub pads. Harsh scrubbing of the skin may make acne worse. Wash your entire face from under the jaw to the hairline and rinse thoroughly. Remove make-up gently with a mild soap and water. Ask your doctor before using an astringent.
- Wash your hair on a regular basis. If your hair is oily, you may want to wash it more often.
- Do not squeeze or pick at acne lesions. This can cause acne scars.
- Avoid getting sunburned. Many medicines used to treat acne can make you more prone to sunburn. Many people think that the sun helps acne, because the redness from sunburn may make acne lesions less visible. But, too much sun can also increase your risk of skin cancer and early aging of the skin. When you're going to be outside, use sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Also, try to stay in the shade as much as you can.
- Choose make-up and hair care products that are “non-comedogenic” or “non-acnegenic.” These products have been made in a way that they don't cause acne. You may also want to use products that are oil-free.
- Avoid things that rub the skin as much as you can, such as backpacks and sports equipment.
- Talk with your doctor about what treatment methods can help your acne. Take your medicines as prescribed. Be sure to tell your doctor if you think medicines you take for other health problems make your acne worse.
Is rosacea the same as acne?
Rosacea is a common skin problem often called “adult acne.” Faired skinned and menopausal women are more likely to have rosacea. Rosacea also seems to run in families. It causes redness in the center parts of the face and pimples. Blood vessels under the skin of the face may enlarge and show through the skin as small red lines. The skin may be swollen and feel warm.
Women with rosacea don't have the same lesions as seen with common acne. They may have flushing of the face, when they are hot, drink alcohol or hot drinks, or eat spicy foods. This flushing causes the face to appear red. In the most severe form, this redness does not go away. The eyes may become swollen and nodules in the skin may be painful.
You can help keep rosacea under control by keeping a record of things that cause it to flare up. Try to avoid or limit these triggers as much as you can. Antibiotic lotions or gels can also help. Sometimes, you may need to take antibiotic pills. Your dermatologist may treat you with laser surgery. If you think you have rosacea, talk with your doctor about these treatments.