Perhaps if acne were not so common, more of us sufferers would seek treatment and would know themselves how to treat acne. But acne vulgaris is so widespread, particularly among adolescents, that many regard it with resignation, almost as a necessary part of growing up. Others are embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, or to show them even to the doctor. They think tolerance, not treatment, is the answer.
They are wrong. Tragically wrong, in the cases of those who bear permanent scars which might have been prevented. Foolishly wrong, for those millions of adolescents who suffer pain and embarrassment in silence when their symptoms could be reduced and their anxieties eased.
In the broadest sense, perhaps acne cannot be “cured”, but it most certainly can be treated in a majority of cases and with considerable success.
Soap and water are a good beginning in acne treatment. They are no substitutes for a physician’s care, but can be of considerable help nonetheless. Soap, hot water, and a wash cloth (or soft brush), can help remove the excess oils and bacteria associated with acne.
Hair follicles open to the skin surface become plugged with sebum (fatty matter). To some extent, this plugged matter can be softened and loosened by washing and help treat acne. But the washing must be fairly vigorous and regular. It is simple enough to point this out to adolescents, but quite another thing to see that they carry it out. Perhaps they doubt that anything so simple can really help. But it does.
Parents should not be reluctant to keep after their children to stick to this basic rule of hygiene. In many cases of acne, good washing habits can make a noticeable difference.
Usually, ordinary cleansing soap is sufficient. For more serious cases of acne, doctors may recommend other soaps which offer special qualities for drying the affected areas. Medicated shampoos are often prescribed to relieve the symptoms of oily, scaly seborrhea (dandruff). This is of great importance if you want to know how to treat acne.
Beyond washing, some acne sufferers attempt to self-treat some of the more obvious symptoms of acne, such as blackheads. The squeezing of blackheads by an untrained person is potentially harmful. Instead of removing the plugged material from the follicle, squeezing can spread it beneath adjoining areas of the skin, resulting in inflammation and, very frequently, permanent scarring.
In a great number of cases, the follicular plugging can be prevented or reduced by external application of the proper medication. The purpose of these applications is to achieve a peeling off of the plugged material. This is a gradual process, and a delicate one. The application must be continuous and it is essential that it be very carefully adjusted to the specific case being treated. The amount and type of preparation will vary with each individual case.
Sometimes, a commercial acne preparation will be sufficient. Other patients will require prescription remedies. One of them is Vitamin-A Acid. This agent is applied topically each night until the desired amount of peeling is obtained, and the number of applications is then adjusted to suit the individual and help him treat acne.
Lotions, creams and other similar external preparations are not always adequate for treatment, particularly with advanced cases of acne. In such cases, internal medicine may be called for. The male hormones are the trigger of acne in both men and women. There are substances which depress the circulation of these androgens. These estrogenic substances must be used very cautiously, because they can cause serious side effects, particularly in the male. They are prescribed primarily for the most serious case of acne.
Antibiotics, especially the tetracyclines, are another form of acne treatment, and can be used under a physician’s direction, with considerably less risk. They should not, however, be used during periods of pregnancy.
Often oral Vitamin A is prescribed by the physician. This medication has been used for many years. Only recently has the degree of its effectiveness in acne treatment been questioned by some doctors.
Then, of course, there is always physical therapy. This is what it sounds like – the actual removal by a doctor of the plugged matter in the follicles of the patient. This can be very time-consuming, but, particularly in early or mild acne, the chances of some improvement are excellent, since these experienced doctors know how to treat acne.
Dry ice occasionally is used by some dermatologists to affect a superficial peeling of the skin to release trapped comedones and sebum. This treatment should never he used without a doctor’s supervision.
Some techniques are very direct. Most common of these is perhaps the actual removal of blackhead with an instrument designed for this task. Other forms of acne can be most effectively drained with the use of a sharp needle which widens the skin opening and makes discharge much easier. There may be some pain accompanying this process, but probably less than most patients expect.
There are only a few established treatments for the scars caused by acne. One is known as Dermabrasion and the other is called Chemical peel. These are useful only in the treatment of certain types of scarring, and even then the scars may never fully disappear.
In the dermabrasion method, a rotary brush is employed to treat acne. In Chemopeel, chemicals are applied to the skin to accomplish the desired results. Both are time-consuming and require experience on the part of the dermatologist or plastic surgeon, but both can be quite successful in removing scars which many sufferers mistakenly regard as permanent.
The various forms of acne treatment discussed in this article are constantly being improved and new treatments are being developed. Adolescents should be made aware that such treatments exists, and they should be encouraged to avail themselves of it. Perhaps the major impediment to the control of acne is the reluctance of the individuals to seek help. That reluctance cannot be justified and it must not be continued. There’s simply too much at stake. Additionally, there is much information on how to treat acne freely available on the Internet.