Acne

Alternative Names

Acne vulgaris; Cystic acne; Pimples; Zits

Definition of Acne

Acne is a skin condition that causes whiteheads, blackheads, and inflamed red lesions (papules, pustules, and cysts) to form. These growths are commonly called pimples or “zits.”

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Acne occurs when tiny holes on the surface of the skin, called pores, become clogged. Each pore is an opening to a canal called a follicle, which contains a hair and an oil gland. Normally, the oil glands help keep the skin lubricated and help remove old skin cells. When glands produce too much oil, the pores can become blocked, accumulating dirt, debris, and bacteria. The blockage is called a plug or comedone.

Signs and tests

Your doctor can diagnose acne based on the appearance of the skin. Testing is usually not required.

Treatment

Take the following self-care steps to lessen the effects of acne:

Expectations (prognosis)

Acne usually subsides after adolescence, but may last into middle age. The condition generally responds well to treatment after 6 – 8 weeks, but may flare up from time to time. Scarring may occur if severe acne is not treated. Some people, especially teenagers, can become significantly depressed if acne is not treated.

Review

Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 12/11/2009

Baby acne
Acne - close-up of pustular lesions
Blackheads (comedones)
Blackheads (comedones) close-up
Acne, cystic on the chest
Acne, cystic on the face
Acne, vulgaris on the back
Acne, close-up of cysts on the back
Acne, cystic on the back
Acne on the back
Adult facial acne
Hair follicle sebaceous gland

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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