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Acne Vulgaris: Diagnoses, Causes & Treatment!

Health Articles > Acne > Acne Vulgaris

Acne vulgaris is the most common form of acne and in fact the word vulgaris means common. Over 85% of the US population will get this skin condition at some time varying from a pimple or two to severe acne vulgaris.

Diagnosing Acne Vulgaris

Many dermatologists assess the severity of a patient's acne vulgaris by using a grading scale. The inflammatory lesions are compared with a set of standard photographs to determine the grade, which may be on a scale of 1 (which is very mild) to 12 (which is extremely severe). Acne may be considered mild, moderate or severe while individual comedones and inflammatory lesions are usually considered separately. In clinical trials evaluating acne treatment, the numbers of uninflamed and inflamed lesions are carefully counted at regular intervals.

Acne vulgaris lesions are more commonly known as pimples, white heads, blackheads, or the slang term of “zits”. More severe lesions are known as comedones or nodules. These lesions occur when there is a change in the skin cell units that contain sebaceous glands, a substance called sebum, and a hair follicle. When oil or dead skin cells build up and clog these units, a breakout or lesion can occur.

And of course the surface areas of the skin that contain the most amounts of sebaceous glands will be the areas where acne vulgaris breakouts are most likely to occur. This includes the back, face and upper portion of the chest and so this is where acne is usually seen. The most common causes of acne vulgaris are hormone fluctuations and excess sebum, while genetics can be a lesser cause.

Causes of Acne Vulgaris

Hormone changes that cause an excess of oil in the skin are the leading cause of acne vulgaris and this is why the inflammatory skin condition is most likely in the teens when breakouts can be attributed to the levels of the hormone testosterone in varying degrees in males and females. In females, acne outbreaks are often linked to the different days in their menstrual cycle because of hormonal changes.

Fortunately as hormone changes become more stable, the acne vulgaris lesions will lessen and disappear, usually by the end of the teen years.

Treating Acne Vulgaris

A big part of acne vulgaris treatment is to keep the skin oil free and clean daily.

  • Wash the skin at least twice a day with warm water, a clean wash cloth or cotton wool balls and a natural non-soap cleanser.
  • At the same time, keep the hair clean and off the face.
  • Sunlight can be very beneficial and if you can expose your face to the sun for several minutes every day, this will help. Do not add any sunblock as this will undo the good and put unwanted toxins back into the skin.
  • Keep any make up to the minimum and always carefully remove at night. Make up should be water based and not contain any petroleum or oil products.
  • OTC and prescription products are available to treat acne but these can be harsh on the skin while a natural product is safer and gentler and equally effective.

In severe cases of acne, a dermatologist should be seen who may advise the following types of treatment for the acne vulgaris:

  • Cryotherapy which is a treatment involving a freezing agent such as liquid nitrogen which can be applied to freeze skin lesions.
  • Intralesional steroid injections are sometimes prescribed to shrink older nodules.
  • Comedones can be removed by procedures in the dermatologist's offices such as cautery or diathermy.
  • Microdermabrasion is helpful in treating mild acne while this skin resurfacing technique can be used to treat acne scars. The doctor or dermatologist will move a rapidly power driven spinning wheel gently over the surface of the scar so that the topmost layers are carefully worn away.
  • Laser therapy is a treatment used twice a week for a four week period. It is becoming more popular with two main mechanisms that laser/light treatments may help acne: (a) by destroying Propionibacterium acnes through a photodynamic therapy and (b) by destroying the sebaceous glands / entire pilosebaceous unit.