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What Causes Acne in Adolescents and Adults? Dispel the Myths

What Causes Acne in Adolescents and Adults? Dispel the Myths

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What Causes Acne Comes Down to Variables and Potential Causes

We know many of the factors that “cause” acne outbreaks in adolescents and adults. We even understand the intricate process of pimple formation. We really don’t know the direct cause of why a pimples form resulting in acne diagnosis.

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Acne, like many other diseases doctors treat, remains a medical mystery which has yet to be solved. To know more about what causes acne, keep reading.

Research studies have concluded no one factor has ever been identified as the cause of acne. For the most part we only have discovered it is a number of factors which worsen acne as well as many potential causes.

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Factors identified as contributors to developing acne include hormones, inflammation, evolutionary biology, vitamin A deficiency and stress. The question of diet and its influence on the disease remains a source of controversy.

Frankly, there exists more questions than answers for how pimple outbreaks turn into a definitive acne diagnosis. We know some aspects of factors known to contribute to the worsening of acne. The true cause of acne has eluded researchers for decades.

The Cause and Effect of Clogged Sebaceous Glands

Some of what causes acne to worsen is clogged glands. When we reach pubescence, our endocrine system starts working overtime (our endocrine system releases substances called hormones into our bloodstream). It is responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics in both males and females.

Females in response to estrogen, progesterone, and androgen hormones, begin their menstrual cycle, develop breast, and begin to reach other developmental milestones. Males primarily in response to testosterone, develop pubic hair, their voice deepens, some begin to develop facial hair.

Some of these hormones also stimulate the production of sebum, or oil, from sebaceous glands found near hair follicles. The function of the oil is to lubricate and protect the skin. Our skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is our first line of defense from bacteria in the environment and on our body.

Acne defined:

The increase in oil moves from beneath our skin to outside our body through ducts and pores in our skin. Old cells, dead cells, and bacteria collectively can clog an oil gland duct and the cells around the duct become inflamed and red.

A small bump, or pustule, might develop or the oil could push through to the surface and we refer to this as a whitehead. After reaching the surface the oil comes in contact with oxygen and the oil changes from white to black which we refer to as a blackhead. Increased redness, inflammation, and pustules is acne.

When the clog is in the deeper layers of the skin, inflammation is increased and a papule, or pimple, develops and is filled with pus. When the clog develops even deeper, the result is a cyst which is more inflamed and tender. Why one oil gland gets clogged over another is not fully understood.

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Myths vs. Facts

The following have little or no effect on the diagnosis of acne. Eating greasy foods. There is evidence working in oily or greasy environments does contribute to acne due to oil sticking to the skin and clogging hair follicles.

  • Hygiene. Dirty skin does not cause acne. Scrubbing your skin too hard or the use of harsh soaps can irritate the skin making breakouts worse.
  • Cosmetics. It is recommended that using water based or non-oily cosmetics is healthier for skin. Comedogenic refers to pore clogging cosmetics.

When you dispel the myths and learn the facts, you become empowered. When making decisions regarding care and treatment for acne you need the facts. This stubborn skin disorder can be treated. Start early for the best chance for successful management of the disease. It can be helpful to understand the known factors we refer to as causes of acne, to know what to do.

According to the Mayo Clinic, acne is most common among teenagers, though it can affect people of all ages. The disease has been diagnosed in patients well into their fifties. When older adults are diagnosed it could indicate a more serious underlying disease requiring immediate medical attention.

The Mayo Clinic identifies four contributing factors to skin outbreaks:

  • Excess sebaceous gland oil production.
  • Hair follicles clogged by oil, dead skin cells and bacteria.
  • Bacteria.
  • Excess activity of the male androgen hormone in males and females.

The Mind/Body Connection and New Trends

Research has also identified these factors which worsen, not cause, the condition.

  • Hormones released at puberty.
  • Hormonal changes related to pregnancy.
  • Medications such as lithium, corticosteroids, and testosterone and growth hormone (IGH) preparations used by athletes to increase muscle mass.
  • Stress (emotional or physical).

New directions and theories abound as the result of the mind/body connection. This is not some new age philosophy or Eastern Medicine ideology. The mind/body connection is an accepted reality without question.

Emotional and physical stress affects many of our body’s systems. The endocrine system, respiratory system, digestive system, the immune system, and even the integumentary, or skin, is affected by stress.

This over taxing and stress on our body can aggravate acne outbreaks, but we do not yet understand how this this process works. It cannot be over emphasized that the cause of acne is due to multiple factors and multiple potential causes.

Current research trends focus on whether the inflammatory process stimulates the development of the disease. One theory suggests once an oil duct becomes clogged the inflammation becomes the catalyst for producing the skin disease.

This would suggest why anti-inflammatory medications work so well. Do lower levels of antioxidants such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Selenium in the skin of acne sufferers play a role? The debate continues.

An infection located elsewhere in the body could also be a risk factor. Some studies suggest low glycemic diets may be helpful as part of treatment. Known risk factors such as age, hormonal changes, family history, greasy work environments, and friction or pressure on the skin shouldn’t be ignored.

One major concern among research scientists, dermatologists, and pharmaceutical companies is the development of resistant strains of bacteria. One study by the British Journal of Dermatology on over 4000 patients found an average of 51% harbored colonies of resistant strains of bacteria.

Genetic mutations do not bode well for today’s dermatology patient. Geneticists, biologists, and dermatologists have a renewed vigor and concern for pinpointing the true causes of acne.

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IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.

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