Acne dietAcne is a disorder of the skin's oil glands (sebaceous glands) that results in plugged pores and outbreaks of lesions commonly called pimples or zits. Acne lesions usually occur on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. Nearly 17 million people in the United States have acne, making it the most common skin disease. Although acne is not a serious health threat, severe acne can lead to disfiguring, permanent scarring, which can be upsetting for people who suffer from the disorder.
Acne vulgaris - A form of acne which results from the bacterial infection of cysts deep within the skin. Generally requires treatment with antibiotics and other agents (Isotretinoin). Without treatment cystic acne may result in scarring.
Acne rosacea - A facial skin disorder which results from chronic inflammation of the cheeks, nose, chin, forehead, and-or eyelids. This is often demonstrated by increased redness or acne-like eruptions in these locations on the face.
The exact cause of acne is unknown, but doctors believe it results from several related factors. One important factor is rising hormone levels. These hormones, called androgens (male sex hormones), increase in both boys and girls during puberty and can cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. Another factor is heredity or genetics. Researchers believe that the tendency to develop acne can be inherited from parents. For example, studies have shown that many school-age boys with acne have a family history of the disorder.
There is no scientific evidence that chocolate, french fries or other greasy foods cause acne. Acne is a skin disorder that can affect people at all ages, from infancy to old age. The years from adolescence to middle age tend to be the most troublesome as far as acne is concerned. Acne treatment seeks to clear up existing acne and prevent more from developing.
Astringents, benzoyl peroxides, retinoic acids, and glycolic acids all work to prevent pores from clogging. Antibiotics, either taken orally or applied topically, can be used to control some types of acne. In order to decrease the inflammation associated with some cases of acne, topical corticosteroids are used to suppress immune cells in the acne-ridden areas.
Topical vitamin A acid preparations such as tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene normalize the shedding of skin at the follicular openings and serve to unplug pore openings. (Tretinoin is more commonly known by the brand name Retin-A.) The medication reduces the formation of new comedones, opens closed comedones, and prompts open comedones to expel their contents. While this process of "opening up" takes place, acne may temporarily appear to worsen. Existing lesions may need time to heal before improvement is noticed. Because of their preventative effect, patients should continue to use vitamin A acids even in the absence of active blemishes. The side effects for vitamin A acids include a mild irritation of the skin that can make a sunburn seem more severe.
Since the exact source of acne is not known, It is important to remember that there is no single medicine for acne treatment. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Wash your skin twice a day with warm water and a gentle pH balanced soap that does not contain sulfur, chemicals, or perfume.
Touch your face only when your hands are clean, wash them frequently and avoid touching your nasal area and then your skin.
Steam your face a few times a week to open and cleanse your pores. Boil some water in a pot on the stove, turn off the heat, cover your head and face with a towel and hang your face over the pot. Take your face away from the heat whenever you need to, and when the steam is gone, rinse your face with cold water.
Check out your diet. Try eating a diet high in fiber (salads, bran, complex carbohydrates), and lots of water. This will keep your digestive system working so that your skin is not burdened by wastes your system can't handle. Keep your diet low in fat and sugar. Eating healthier foods insures that your skin gets the nutrients it needs. Food allergies may also contribute to acne. You might try eliminating dairy products, wheat, and/or food preservatives.
For severe nodulocystic acne that does not respond to the above therapies, a doctor may prescribe a vitamin-A derivative taken orally, such as isotretinoin which is known by the brand name Accutane. Isotretinoin has a very high success rate in improving severe acne. Such medication must be monitored very closely by a doctor because of its potentially severe side effects, the biggest of which is a likelihood for severe birth defects in an unborn child.
Vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin E and zinc work together in helping overcome most skin disorders. Puberty increases the body's need for zinc thus a deficiency among adolescents is often the cause of acne. Iodine worsens acne, so eliminate all processed foods high in iodized salt from your diet.
- National Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
This clearinghouse, a public service sponsored by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), provides information about various forms of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases. The clearinghouse distributes patient and professional education materials and also refers people to other sources of information.
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