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Acne is an inflammatory skin disease which affects the tiny pores which cover the face, arms, back and chest and the oil glands attached to them.

It is an abnormal response in the skin to normal levels of the male hormone, testosterone, in the blood. Both men and women have testosterone circulating in the blood, but in the acne sufferer, this hormone has a profound effect on the skin. This abnormal response is self limiting and eventually acne does get better without treatment, but there is no way of predicting how long this can take, and it may take years or even decades! Acne can also leave scars which are permanent and are easier to prevent than to treat.

In the skin, the disease attacks two structures:

  1. The pore through which the hairs emerge from the skin
  2. The oil or sebaceous gland

The partial blockage in the pore restricts the flow of oil onto the skin surface. This results in solidification of the oil which fills the hair channel forming a blackhead. The black of the blackhead is not due to dirt, but a change in pigment in the blockage in the pore. If the partial blockage becomes complete, the oil builds up around the hair and hair root and becomes infected with bacteria normally present on the skin. The bacteria breaks down the oil to very inflammatory chemicals which cause redness, pus formation and pain - the "zit".

If the inflammation is deep and severe, or if the spot is manipulated or squeezed, the pus can burst deep into the skin rather than onto the surface. This deep-rooted inflammation and infection results in scarring and cyst formation.

Acne is commonest in adolescents with a peak in the late teens. Acne may however, appear for the first time in the mid-twenties or even later and persists in a significant number of people into their 40s or even their 50s.

Does diet affect acne? The simplest answer is no. The myth persists that chocolate and fatty foods make acne worse. In a very small percentage of people, these foods do make their acne worse, but in most people, diet is not important. A good balanced diet is, however, important for general well-being.


Remember... Always consult your doctor if you need advice about, or treatment for your acne.



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