While it is not considered a life-threatening condition, acne is common in some degree to almost one hundred percent of the world’s population at some point in their lives, regardless of race or gender.  Those individuals who are most severely afflicted can even suffer permanent scarring, both physical and psychological.

Acne is defined as a disorder of the skin caused by inflammation of glands and hair follicles in the skin.  The cause of this condition is more a progression of events than one particular culprit.  Generally the problem begins during puberty, when the body produces androgens, which serve to enlarge the sebaceous glands that in turn produce the skin’s natural oil.  This oil, or sebum, travels through the hair follicles, where it can mix with unshed dead skin cells to plug the follicles.

Once this occurs, the skin’s normal bacteria (called P.acnes) multiplies too fast and causes a reaction – inflammation.  The body’s response is to attack the unwanted bacteria with white blood cells, which results in the swollen and often painful lesions known familiarly as acne.

Males and females are affected almost equally by the problems of acne, but the condition is likely to be more severe and longer lasting in men, while women are subject to the recurrent hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.  Quite often acne can be controlled with non-prescription remedies, but it is estimated that some medical treatment is required in over forty percent of the adolescent population.

Until the past two or three decades, acne pretty much ran its course without interference from the medical profession, and since almost everyone experienced the affliction it was taken for granted that nothing could really be done about it.  However, in recent years this attitude has changed drastically, and apparently very much for the better.

Today’s dermatologists can base an effective treatment on various contributing factors such as the type of acne and any co-existing conditions, skin type, age and lifestyle.  A couple of very important things to remember, especially for teenagers in adolescent agonies of embarrassment and frustration, are that there is no overnight cure, and every case is different.

Under no circumstances should the acne sufferer scratch, pick at or otherwise aggravate the pimple, blackhead, whitehead or other indication of a problem, since this only increases the chance of infection and scarring.  The best course of action available for anyone suffering the unpleasant manifestations of acne is to consult a skin care professional and get the information and/or treatment needed to solve the problem.

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