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Acne Information

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Acne is a condition that leads to plugged pores and outbreaks of skin lesions commonly called "zits" or pimples. Acne usually occurs on the chest, back, face, neck, and shoulders. Almost 17 million people in the U.S. have acne. This makes it the most common skin disease. It is not a serious health condition but severe acne can sometimes lead to permanent scarring.

Nearly 85 percent of young people between the age 12 and 24 develop acne. It tends to go away by the time they reach their thirties but some people in their forties and fifties continue to have acne problems.

Acne as a disease of the pilosebaceous units or PSUs. Pilosebaceous units are found over most of the body and they consist of a sebaceous gland that is connected to a follicle that contains a fine hair. PSUs are most numerous on the chest, face, and upper back. The sebaceous glands produce sebum that normally empties onto the skin surface through a pore. The cells that line the follicle are called keratinocyte.

Sometimes thhe hair, keratinocytes, and sebum that fill the follicle may produce a plug. This is an early sign of acne. This plug can prevent the sebum from reaching the surface through a pore. Bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) that normally live on the skin then grow in the plugged follicles. The bacteria are able to produce enzymes and chemicals and attract white blood cells that often cause inflammation. When a plugged follicle starts to break down, it spills bacteria and sebum into the nearby skin which leads to pimples.

The basic acne lesion is called a comedo. It is a plugged and enlarged hair follicle. If the comedo stays beneath the skin, it is called a closed comedo and eventually creates a white bump called a whitehead. If, on the other hand, a comedo reaches the surface of the skin and opens up it is called a blackhead. Whiteheads and blackheads often stay in the skin for a long period of time.

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