Overview of Adult Acne
If the word acne is something you associate with distant memories of your teenage
years, consider yourself lucky. In the United States, cases of adult acne are on
the rise and researchers are at a loss to determine the exact cause of
the increase. Acne vulgaris is characterized by outbreaks of tender, red,
pus-filled bumps over the face, neck, back or chest. It's not only the painful bumps
that cause a host of problems for sufferers. Oftentimes people with acne suffer
from embarrassment and shame due to the condition, and may avoid social situations
or even work if the outbreak is severe. The psychological impact of adult acne is
often quite serious, and some individuals also suffer from depression as a result
of the condition.
Why the sudden increase?
There are a number of theories as to what causes acne. Acne can be caused by a change
in hormone levels, and while it is most often associated with puberty, acne can
also arise during pregnancy or menopause. Some research indicates that stress may
also be a leading cause of acne outbreaks, which may shed some light on the sudden
increased incidence of the condition in American adults, many of whom lead a strenuous
life. Additional research points toward evidence that diet may be the culprit behind
adult acne. Although previous research theorized that there were no direct links
between food and acne, current scientists are beginning to rethink that hypothesis.
The typical American diet is frequently full of fast foods, sugars, caffeine and
alcohol, all of which can lead to increased toxicity and inflammation in the body.
When our bodies are overtaxed, our organs, especially the liver, cannot keep up
with the increased toxic burden. The excess toxins are then filtered out for elimination
by organs such as the lungs and skin, and an increase in toxins and bacteria are
then deposited on the surface of the skin. This may cause an increase in the frequency
or severity of skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis.
Over the years many different treatments for acne have become available. Ranging
from prescription drugs to dietary changes, these treatments also vary greatly in
cost, side effects, and efficacy.
- Prescription drugs
There are a number of prescriptions available for treating acne, ranging from antibiotics
to vitamin A derivatives known as retinoids. One commonly prescribed oral retinoid
is Accutane, which reduces the body's amount of oil production. Though effective
for treating some acne patients, side effects associated with this form of treatment
can be quite severe and include birth defects, liver damage, dry skin, and nosebleeds.
Patients taking this drug are often closely monitored by their doctors.
- Topical treatments
Topical treatments are another common way to combat adult acne. Topicals are available
by prescription or purchased over-the-counter, and may contain a number of different
antibacterial or exfoliating additives. Some topicals are used for treatment of
skin eruptions to hasten the healing process, while others assist in sloughing off
dead skin in an attempt to prevent the pores from becoming clogged.
Some acne patients have eruptions removed by dermatologists or aestheticians in
a procedure known as an extraction. This procedure, although usually quick, can
be painful and if necessary to repeat often can become costly. If performed incorrectly,
extractions may also cause scarring.
Phototherapy utilizes special lights which emit UV rays directed onto the area affected
by acne. Patients are then asked to treat the area with topical lotions as well.
This method of treatment is effective for many patients, but is quite costly, and
must be repeated to maintain results.
- Diet and lifestyle
Some acne sufferers have found relief by modifying their diet and lifestyle choices.
Current research indicates that acne and other skin conditions may be caused by
inflammation in the body as a result of an overabundance of built-up toxins.When
an individual consumes foods that contain simple (refined) carbohydrates, sugar,
alcohol, caffeine, chemicals and additives, toxins in the system may not be adequately
processed by the liver. By examining the diet and eliminating foods that can overtax
the system, acne sufferers may see improvement in their condition.
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Acne is commonly thought of as a teenage affliction, compounding for young sufferers the often self-conscious awkwardness of adolescence with the embarrassment of unattractive skin eruptions. When acne persists into later stages of life, or shows up unexpectedly in older adults, the often unsightly rash can be no less socially distracting and awkward.
Overview of Adult Acne—Reference
Documents and Further Reading
Principal Author: K. Kastelein, Editor-in-Chief
Date of Publication: 08/25/2006
Article Last Updated: 06/07/2011