Physician's Weekly
October 29, 2021
Controlling Acne

Q: My teenage daughter has acne, what can be done to help her?

A: Up to 85% of teenagers suffer with acne. Acne’s severity varies from teen to teen. In areas such as the face, neck, shoulders, upper arms, chest and back it is not uncommon to find clogged pores (resulting in blackheads or whiteheads), hard bumps and painful festering pimples – i.e. acne.

Acne often runs in families, and if your father, mother or a sibling had acne, you are much more likely to suffer from acne. The good news is, there are available treatments which can not only significantly curtail outbreaks, but such treatments can reduce the incidence of scarring that is often associated with severe acne.

What causes acne?

Your skin naturally produces oils. At the time of puberty there is a significant increase in production of androgens (for both boys and girls) which results in increased oil production in the face, neck, shoulders, upper arms and chest. Sometimes the opening of these oil glands become blocked, resulting in not only a build up of oil in the oil producing glands, but bacteria may also become trapped within.

This ultimately results in the hardening of the oil, via oxidation; these glands can also become infected by the trapped bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes).

Acne can also be triggered by some oral contraceptive pills (OCPs), menstrual periods, pregnancy, greasy hair preparations, hair dyes, thick facial creams and cosmetics.

How can acne be treated?

  • Over the counter topical preparations: Several topical preparations can be applied directly to the skin of the involved areas. They are available in the form of gels, lotions, creams, soaps, and pads. Their ingredients include benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, acetic acid, and salicylic acid. These are most effective in mild to moderate cases of acne and often takes one to two months of consistent application before positive results are seen.
  • Prescription topical preparations: These forms of treatment are often reserved for moderately severe acne. These preparations include antibiotics, tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide and others.

Prescription oral drug treatments: In cases of moderate to severe acne, topical treatments may not be adequate to control the acne flares.

  • Oral antibiotics: The most prescribed oral antibiotics are tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline and erythromycin. For such medications not only reduce the growth of the bacteria within the lesions, but markedly reduces the inflammation associated with acne.

Generally, for optimal results, these antibiotics are to be taken daily for anywhere from 3 to 6 months.

Androgen suppressing OCPs: These may be prescribed to women whose acne is worse at the time of their monthly cycle.

Spironolactone (Aldactone): This can be used in adult women where hormonal fluctuations cause outbreaks. It is normally reserved for cases where most other treatment options have failed.

Isotretinoin (Accutane): This is a very strong acne medication, often reserved for the most severe cases of acne. This should never be used in pregnancy or while breastfeeding. It can also rarely induce suicidal thoughts; everyone taking isotretinoin and their family, respectively, need to be aware of such a potential side effect.

l Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale, www.familycaresvg.com, [email protected], 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)

Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.