Acne, or acne vulgaris, is a common skin condition affecting the opening of the pilosebaceous glands.  It usually begins in adolescence but can impact adults as well.  Pimples may be small and superficial such as blackheads and whiteheads or more inflammatory such as papules and pustules or even deeper nodules and cysts occurring on the face, neck, back and chest.

It is thought that 80% of people experience acne in their lifetime and it can be complicated by long lasting pigmentation and scarring.  It is therefore vitally important that it is treated early and there are many safe and effective treatments available.

There are many myths and opinions regarding acne so it is rally important you seek out  medical attention and your general practitioner or dermatologist will be happy to help.  The All About Acne website is a great resource. 

Forms of acne and treatments available

Mild acne

Small superficial lesions such as blackheads and whiteheads of even a few papules and pustules that are few in number may appear on the face and trunk.  They can be easily treated, especially if you act early and reasonably priced over-the-counter treatments are available.  Many of these products contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic  or glycolic acid.  Should your acne not improve after 2 to 3 months of treatment then a visit to your GP recommended.

Moderate acne

Moderate acne is characterised by more lesions that can be more inflammatory such as inflamed red papules or pustules.  If over-the-counter products are ineffective then you GP may be able to prescriptive a topical or oral medication.  You should have a review with your GP to check that the treatment is working and if treatment is proving ineffective then it maybe worthwhile speaking to your GP about a referral to a dermatologist.

Treatment options may be a topical antibiotic or retinoid or even an oral antibiotic or hormonal treatments such as the oral contraceptive for women.

Severe acne

Severe acne is characterised by large deep and often painful lumps under the skin which are nodules and cysts.  They may last longer and lead to scarring and it is important to seek treatment early.  Your GP may prescribe oral antibiotics for this and referral to a dermatologist may be required for consideration of oral isotretinoin.

Any acne that fails to respond to treatment or that causes psychological distressed should be considered for a referral.  We must always remember that acne can cause psychological harm with patients having anxiety lack of confidence and social withdrawal.

Your dermatologist may be able to deal with more complicated acne cases such as the pregnant patient.  Dermatologists are also experts in a wide range of other acne treatments such as superficial chemical peel, antiandrogen medications such as cyproterone acetate and Spironolactone and cutting-edge technologies such as Kleresca photodynamic therapy.