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What is Acne?

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Acne Vulgaris is the most common dermatological condition in the United States and affects a wide variety of people. While not a serious disease, acne can cause scarring and psychosocial distress. This article discusses the physiology of acne, the functional medicine perspective on acne, and conventional and complementary and alternative therapies to treat acne.

Physiology of Acne

Skin is the largest human organ that protects the body from infection; it serves as a waterproof barrier to the outside, protects the body from the sun, insulates the body, repairs itself, and produces vitamin D. With so many functions, it has a complex structure. Human skin is made up for three...

Acne Vulgaris is the most common dermatologic condition in the United States, affecting more than 17 million people of all ages. 80-90% of adolescents have had acne.7 Teenage acne often begins around the ages of 10 to 13, when teenagers are going through puberty. Some teenage girls get acne at a younger age than boys, but boys often have much more severe acne than girls 2 Teenagers often get blackheads, whiteheads, and inflammatory lesions, often centered around the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). However, acne can also affect anywhere on the face and trunk in teens.

Some people, especially women, have adult-onset acne that begins in her 20s and 30s. According to Dubrow and Adderly, more than 50% of adults over the age of 25 experience acne breakouts (2003, p. 23). Often there...

Acne typically appears on the face, neck, chest, back, and shoulders because these are the areas with the most oil glands. Acne can come in the following forms:

  • Comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). Comedones occur when hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and sometimes bacteria. Blackheads occur when the comedo enlarges and pops through the skin. The black color is due not to dirt but to a build-up of melanin. Whiteheads happened when the comedo stays below the surface of the skin; the white bubble seen is the trapped sebum and dead cells.
  • Papules are small raised bumps that signal inflammation or infection in the hair follicles. Papules may be red and tender.
  • Pustules are red, tender bumps with white pus at their tips.
  • Nodules are large, solid,...

Acne is often discovered by the person with acne and self-diagnosed and self-treated with over-the-counter medications. Acne can be diagnosed by a dermatologist.

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