What is Acne?

What is acne?

Acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is a common human skin condition. It is characterized by areas of skin with seborrhea or scaly red skin, comedones or blackheads and whiteheads, papules or pinheads, pustules or pimples, nodules or large pustules and cysts. Acne primarily affects skin with the densest population of sebaceous follicles. These areas normally include the face, chest, neck, shoulders and back.

Generally speaking, there are two main types of acne: non-inflammatory or mild acne such as whiteheads or blackheads – and inflammatory or severe acne, involving papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.

Non-inflammatory acne, such as a blackhead or whitehead, can release its contents to the surface and heal. Or, the follicle wall can rupture, causing inflammatory acne. This rupture can happen at random or be caused by picking or touching the skin. This is why it is important to leave acne prone skin relatively untouched.

With inflammatory acne, a papule occurs when there is a break in the follicular wall. White blood cells rush in and the pore becomes inflamed. A pustule, normally referred to as a pimple or zit, forms several days later when the white blood cells make their way to the surface of the skin.

An inflamed lesion can sometimes completely collapse or explode, severely inflaming the surrounding skin, and sometimes engulfing neighboring pores or follicles. These lesions are called nodules or cysts, which are large, painful, pus filled lesions.

Another form of acne is called milia, which is when tiny white bumps occur. This happens when normally sloughed skin cells get trapped in small pockets on the surface of the skin. Milia is common in newborns across the nose and upper cheeks and can also be seen on adult skin. The bumps usually disappear as the surface is worn away and the dead skin is sloughed.


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