Get Clearer Skin and Manage Breakouts in St. Petersburg, South Pasadena, and Tampa Bay
There is one skin condition that seemingly impacts just about every person at some point in life: acne. While pop culture depictions of acne tend to portray it as a glaringly obvious pimple that pops up at the most inopportune moment and then disappears, the skin condition is actually far more complex and can take multiple forms.
Fortunately, the board-certified dermatologists at Nelson Dermatology can offer a wide range of treatment options to help all of these different types of acne. While many people assume we only treat teenagers for acne, roughly 50 percent of adults also struggle with flare-ups. Since outbreaks can contribute to a poor self image and low self esteem, we are happy to treat anyone struggling with control of their acne. A successful acne treatment can lead to a better quality of life.
What Is Acne?
All the different types of acne do have a common starting point: a clogged pore known as a comedone. Pores are the openings of follicles, which are small pockets found all over the skin. As long as a follicle's pore stays clear, natural oil known as sebum and oil-eating bacteria found on the surface can freely come and go.
Whiteheads and Blackheads
If the pore does become blocked by excess oil, dead skin cells, and other debris, the sebum can build up as production continues. Furthermore, "imprisoned" bacteria can begin to create problems as they feed on the sebum and multiply. This is the stage typically called "whiteheads" and "blackheads," depending on the color of the comedone. We typically refer to these as "non-inflammatory" acne due to the fact that there is no significant redness, tenderness, or inflammation around these lesions.
Papules and Pustules
What the general public typically refers to as "pimples" or "zits," we dermatologists refer to as papules and pustules. These lesions occur when the wall around the comedone begins to break down. This allows some of the sebum, P. acnes bacteria, and other contents of the comedone to spill under the skin. Your body then mounts an immune reaction to attack these materials. This creates a raised, red bump known as a papule. If pus forms, creating a white or yellow bulge at the center, the spot is then known as a pustule.
Many people are tempted to "pop" what are commonly referred to as zits, but scratching or squeezing them can lead to complications that worsen the severity of the outbreak.
Nodules and Cysts
If a follicle wall completely ruptures due to swelling from bacterial growth or trauma from squeezing, the material further leaks into the surrounding tissue and prompts a much larger immune response. The result can be a nodule, which is an often painful and fibrous lump beneath the skin. At more than 5 millimeters wide, this form of acne can leave scars. Similar to nodules, cysts are also painful, wider than 5 millimeters, and result from broken follicle walls, but are filled with liquid or pus instead of fibrous material. They can also result in scarring.
It is incredibly important to treat these lesions as soon as possible to prevent the development of scars. While you will eventually outgrow your breakouts, the scars they leave behind can be a lifelong reminder.
What Causes Acne?
The process of finding the right acne treatment often starts with finding its cause. While many patients focus on wanting to clear up specific outbreaks, determining how to minimize future outbreaks is an even more important goal.
Acne is closely associated with hormones—which can trigger excess sebum production—and inflammation. There also seems to be a genetic component, in that people with "acne prone skin" tend to have parents who developed acne. Other likely factors that contribute to the skin condition are stress (which impacts hormones) and diet (which can influence skin health and inflammation).
Since outbreaks start with plugged pores, skin with an abundance of dead cells, oil, and other clogging materials is more likely to develop lesions. Certain makeups and other skin products have ingredients that are known to block the openings of follicles. At Nelson Dermatology, we focus on controlling all of these factors to get your skin looking healthy, beautiful, and clear.
What Acne Treatments Are Available at Tampa Bay's Nelson Dermatology?
Typically, early forms of acne, such as whiteheads and blackheads, can be treated readily with topical agents such as retinoids (tretinoin, adapalene) and topical antibiotics. Prevention by keeping pores clear is also an ideal strategy. At Nelson Dermatology, we believe that focusing on developing a good daily topical regimen is one of the most important aspects of acne treatment.
For early inflammatory lesions, such as papules and pustules, again, a good topical regimen is your best treatment. We typically treat these outbreaks with topical agents such as retinoids, antibiotic creams, and anti-inflammatory creams.
If topical agents are not sufficient, rest assured that the team at Nelson Dermatology will help you get your acne under control. We stay up to date on the newest and most effective treatment options for more severe cases. We often utilize oral antibiotic agents as a first line therapy in addition to our topical regimens for this type of acne.
Some women find that their acne may be related to hormonal cycles or changes. These patients may respond well to oral contraceptive therapy or spironolactone therapy.
Finally, we have many patients who have had great success with Accutane for severe cases. Rest assured, we can help you find the best regimen to fit your needs.
But what if your acne has already left you with scarring? Unfortunately, despite medical treatment, it is not always possible to prevent any scar formation. Acne can result in small "icepick" style scars, as well as rolling and boxcar type scars, which can serve as a lifelong reminder. Fortunately, there are treatment options such as laser resurfacing, chemical peels, dermal fillers, and occasionally surgery to help improve and reduce the appearance of your acne scars. As no two scars are exactly alike, it may be necessary to meet in person to determine what, if any, of these options is best for you.