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Health Care and Acne

One of the most embarrassing skin conditions is acne, and you can usually find a lot of it especially on the faces of teenagers. The typical look of acne is red spots that break out due to many reasons— stress, genetics, and other causes. Acne can be serious or moderate, and there are some cases that require ongoing treatment by health care professionals.

Here are some interesting statistics from the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology), which can also be located at this website--  http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/conditions/acne :

• Acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million to 50 million Americans.
• Nearly 85 percent of all people have acne at some point in their lives, most often on the face, chest, and back.
• By mid-teens, more than 40 percent of adolescents have acne or acne scarring, which requires treatment by a dermatologist.
• The total direct cost associated with the treatment of acne exceeds $2.2 billion each year, including substantial costs for prescription and over-the-counter products.

According to Proactiv.com, from the moment you are born, your skin begins a lifelong process of shedding dead cells and producing oil. This process can be disrupted by your hormone balance, which changes throughout your life. The acne cycle is initiated when excess oil and dead skin cells combine to plug the pore of a hair follicle; behind the plugged pore, bacteria grow and multiply, triggering inflammation and swelling. That's an acne blemish.

Acne is what doctors call a chronic condition, which means it can last for years—even decades in adults. Because there is no cure, the key to a clear complexion is control and prevention with medicated daily maintenance therapy. The pimples you see today started as tiny microcomedones, or pre-pimples, deep inside your skin about three weeks before breaking out. Hundreds of tiny pre-pimples may be forming continuously in any of the thousands of pores on your face. Even when your skin looks clear, they may still be there—percolating invisibly under the skin's surface. Much more detail can be found at this website: http://www.proactiv.com/acne-information/what-causes-acne,default,pg.html .

Once a pore becomes clogged, it traps skin oil inside. Bacteria grows in this oil and can cause an inflammatory response in the skin. Acne lesions can be small and hardly noticeable, have a small white or black head, or can appear red with a white/yellow center. Sometimes a clogged pore will become so inflamed that it can lead to larger, more painful lesions called nodules or cysts, which can ultimately scar. Almost no one escapes some clogged pores and pimples, especially during adolescence--a fragile time when self-esteem and confidence is just emerging. Acne afflicts people of all ethnicities and is treated the same regardless, according to this site: www.Acne.org .

Your skin is healthiest and clearest when it is in balance. The more irritation your skin experiences, the more likely it is to break out. Conversely, the less irritation your skin experiences, the better it is able to remain clean. Sources of irritation include anything which rubs, scratches, or comes into prolonged contact with your skin, as well as anything which sends your skin out of balance such as overdryness, sunburns, shaving the face with irritating razors, and pore-clogging cosmetics. To best clear acne, try to keep your skin as untouched as possible. Acne is not caused by dirt, and washing your face, while it is fine to do up to twice per day, is going to do little to help with your acne. Much more info can be found at this site: http://www.acne.org/ .

People with acne often feel incredibly alone but the fact is, acne is the most common skin disease in the world, with tens of millions of sufferers, according to Proactive. More than 85% of Americans have acne breakouts at some time in their lives. Among teenagers, about 90% develop acne, and it can last all their teen years. Many adults have acne, too. Among adult women, about 50% experience acne breakouts at some point; among men, about 25%—and the chronic nature of the condition means adults may have to endure symptoms for decades if not treated with appropriate acne medication.

According to the NIH (National Institutes for Health), there are many myths about what causes acne. Chocolate and greasy foods are often blamed, but there is little evidence that foods have much effect on the development and course of acne in most people. Another common myth is that dirty skin causes acne; however, blackheads and other acne lesions are not caused by dirt. Stress doesn’t cause acne, but research suggests that for people who have acne, stress can make it worse. Factors that can cause an acne flare include:

• Changing hormone levels in adolescent girls and adult women before their menstrual period starts
• Oil from skin products (lubricants or cosmetics) or grease encountered in the work environment (for example, a kitchen with fry vats)
• Pressure from sports helmets or equipment, backpacks, tight collars, or tight sports uniforms
• Environmental irritants, such as pollution and high humidity
• Squeezing or picking at blemishes
• Hard scrubbing of the skin
• Stress.

Acne is often treated by dermatologists (doctors who specialize in skin problems), according to the NIH. These doctors treat all kinds of acne, particularly severe cases. Doctors who are general or family practitioners, pediatricians, or internists may treat patients with milder cases of acne. Depending on the extent of the problem, the doctor may recommend one of several over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and/or prescription medicines. Some of these medicines may be topical (applied to the skin), and others may be oral (taken by mouth).

There are several OTC topical medicines used for mild acne. Each works a little differently. Following are the most common ones:

• Benzoyl peroxide--Destroys P. acnes and may also reduce oil production.
• Resorcinol--Can help break down blackheads and whiteheads.
• Salicylic acid--Helps break down blackheads and whiteheads. Also helps cut down the shedding of cells lining the hair follicles.
• Sulfur--Helps break down blackheads and whiteheads.

Topical OTC medicines are available in many forms, such as gels, lotions, creams, soaps, or pads. In some people, OTC acne medicines may cause side effects such as skin irritation, burning, or redness, which often get better or go away with continued use of the medicine. If you experience severe or prolonged side effects, you should report them to your doctor.

People with moderate-to-severe inflammatory acne may be treated with prescription topical or oral medicines, alone or in combination, according to the NIH. Several types of prescription topical medicines are used to treat acne. They include:

• Antibiotics. Help stop or slow the growth of bacteria and reduce inflammation

• Vitamin A derivatives (retinoids). Unplug existing comedones (plural of comedo), allowing other topical medicines, such as antibiotics, to enter the follicles. Some may also help decrease the formation of comedones. These drugs contain an altered form of vitamin A. Some examples are tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene.

• Others. May kill P. acnes and reduce oil production or help stop or slow the growth of bacteria and reduce inflammation. Some examples are prescription strength benzoyl peroxide, sodium sulfacetamide/sulfur-containing products, or azelaic acid.

For patients with moderate-to-severe acne, doctors often prescribe oral antibiotics. Oral antibiotics are thought to help control acne by curbing the growth of bacteria and reducing inflammation. Prescription oral and topical medicines may be combined. Much more detailed material about acne can be located at this website: http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/acne/ .

Oil in the skin is a contributing factor to acne. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, some of that excess oil production may be diet-related. This study found that high glycemic foods and dairy products can cause changes in the body that lead to increased cellular growth and oil production, which can increase the chances of developing acne. Yikes! Better cut back on that cheddar. But, what’s a glycemic index?

The glycemic index, according to this website, http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/3615-high-glycemic-foods-acne.html , is a measure of the speed at which sugar in food enters your bloodstream. High-glycemic foods are those that have the fastest blood sugar response. So, things like cupcakes and white bread are considered high glycemic. It’s important to note, though, that the glycemic index isn’t a measure of a food’s nutritional value, fat content, or anything else. It simply indicates how it will affect your blood sugar levels. It can be confusing, to say the least.

Here are some tips for eating a low-glycemic diet without stressing out:

--Avoid processed foods. Whole foods are usually lower on the glycemic index than processed foods. Apple juice will spike your blood sugar at a much faster rate than eating a whole apple.

--Try a protein pairing. Because protein is harder to digest, it can bring down the overall glycemic index of a meal. Just don’t use cheese or other dairy products as your protein. Remember, those may also cause acne.

--Choose fiber. Since it can’t be digested by the body, fiber is low on the glycemic index. Eat foods that are high in fiber, and there’s a good chance you'll steer clear of high GI foods.

The good news is that acne is treatable, and in many cases does not cause too much damage to the skin. However, if you are experiencing issues with it that are causing concern, see your doctor. He can suggest and prescribe some options to help you. Also, in more severe cases, your physician can refer you to a specialist. Dermatologists can help you with acne that is more chronic and difficult to manage. Although acne can be embarrassing socially, remember that in most cases it is temporary. Watch your diet and your daily skin regimen to self-manage most acne issues.

Until next time.


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