ACNE: Acne is a widespread and embarrassing condition that affects both teenagers and adults. It can produce life-long scars, both physically and emotionally. It typically begins during adolescence, when hormonal changes cause the enlargement and obstruction of sebaceous glands in the skin. Hormones, genes and environmental factors are also considered to play a part in acne. Doctors say it is a myth that certain foods, stress or not washing your face cause acne. Many people experience an abnormal proliferation of bacteria, predominantly Propionibacterium acnes. This typically causes painful, inflamed lesions that can appear on the face, chest, back, limbs, and virtually any other part of the body.
OVER THE COUNTER: Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are two common over-the-counter treatments for acne. These two products can make skin more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to wear sunscreen when using them. Some studies have revealed green tea extracts can prevent pimples and relieve symptoms of rosacea.
CLEARLIGHT: Doctors now have a tool called ClearLight. It is a high-intensity wavelength light that goes through the tissue to reach the bacteria. Treatment time and length is different for each patient, but dermatologist Dale Isaacson, M.D., says most patients continue to use a topical product and have between eight and 12 sessions. Each session runs an average of 15 minutes to 20 minutes. Generally patients come in two times a week for treatment. Patients with more severe acne may need additional treatments. The effectiveness appears to last for about six months, at which time a patient can repeat the treatment. Dr. Isaacson says this is a good alternative to previous methods of acne treatment, which rely heavily on the use of antibiotics. He says acne bacteria eventually become resistant to the drugs and can become more virulent. So far it does not appear the bacteria will become resistant to the light therapy.
RETINOIDS: Many patients with acne can be treated with medications called retinoids. Retinoids have similar chemical properties to vitamin A and work by increasing skin cell turnover as well as preventing the formation of new blackheads and whiteheads. Topical retinoids are often used in combination with antibiotics because combining these drugs targets different aspects of acne. Topical retinoid normalize skin cell shedding, while antibiotics inhibit acne bacteria from producing irritating free fatty acids. Tretinoin is the best-known topical retinoid, which is also known as Retin-A, Avita or Renova among others.
ACCUTANE: Accutane is used to treat severe acne. It is often only prescribed when other treatments have not helped. This medication, however, can cause serious side effects, like depression, birth defects, and less commonly, liver damage. Those taking the medication must undergo monthly blood tests.
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