Acne Vulgaris

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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.

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.

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.

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

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