Acne isn't something you have to live with.
International statistics published by the American Academy of Dermatology show that nearly 85 per cent of all people have had an acne problem at some point in their lives, most often on the face, chest, and back.
With the odds of catching up with us being so high, it could become rather frustrating for someone who has to endure boils and pimples frequently.
Dr Uttam Kumar, Head of the Department of Dermatology at Lifeline Hospital in Dubai told Gulf News he has witnessed an estimated 30 per cent increase in the number of patients coming in with an acne problem this year at the hospital. He said that the increase in acne cases can be attributed to several factors, including the fact that more younger women are conscious about maintaining a good appearance and the need to have clear and smooth skin. Acne can also occur as a side-effect of obesity and polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is another reason behind the increase in acne cases.
This universal skin problem is most common among teenagers and people in their 20s, but those over the age of 30 are not necessarily spared. "Acne can persist into 20s and 30s in around 64 per cent and 43 per cent of individuals; meanwhile, the heritability of acne is almost 80 per cent in first-degree relatives," said Dr Kumar. While acne primarily bothers adolescents, it is more severe and persistent in those with a positive family history, he added.
The causes of persistent pimples and daily rashes can range from poor diets to environmental factors to genetics and hormonal variations. The condition commonly occurs among youth due to an increase in the production of the sex hormone known as androgen, Dr Kumar said.
"These excess hormones cause the hair follicle and oil producing gland [sebaceous glands] to become hyperactive, enlarged, and to produce too much sebum, or oil, which leads to the blockage of pores and results in an overgrowth of bacteria that cause acne," he said.
Pimples form when bacteria grow within a blocked pore causing infection, which explains how some pimples appear overnight. Such pimples can sometimes become red due to inflammation and produce painful lumps under the skin, which are known as boils or cysts.
Other causes can include environmental factors such as stress, pollution, and exposure to chemicals.
What is the best solution?
People suffering from acne often try out over-the-counter creams, gels and lotions. However, depending on the severity of acne, treatment to permanently eliminate acne can range from natural home remedies to more intensive medications.
Gulf News also spoke to dermatologist Dr Hala Fadli from the Dermatology and Laser Clinic in Jumeirah. Dr Hala said there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of patients reporting acne problems at the clinic. She added that bad diets were one of the main causes of acne among teenagers. "One of the most common causes is the poor quality of food choices made by teenagers such as fast foods, sugary foods, and carbohydrate diets, which contain high sugar content."
A diagnosis by a qualified dermatologist is necessary before independently trying out any medications in order to avoid allergies and complications. For people with moderate to severe acne, topical creams and lotions can be the solution. If patients don't respond to the initial course of treatment, then a medication consisting of a high dosage of vitamin A (Isotretinoin) can be prescribed after a patient's blood test results are cleared by his doctor, said Dr Hala. "This treatment is carried out for six to nine months depending on the severity of the acne, and is given in very small dosages such as 10ml or 20ml."
Once a patient is on this treatment, a monthly visit to the dermatologist's office is necessary along with a blood test every four weeks. "We carry out the blood test, which is required by law, to test the liver and lipid profile of the patient and monitor any increases," Dr Hala added.
The capsules work to eliminate the acne present not only on the face but on any part of the body by drying the inflamed spots and pimples harbouring bacteria. The most common side-effects of the treatment are dryness of the lips, skin, nose, and eyes. Other reported side-effects that are not so common include mild nose bleeds, mild hair fall, and depression.
Patients who are pregnant or trying to conceive are not prescribed this treatment as it can cause birth defects, Dr Hala said.
"The main reason for this treatment is to prevent scarring in the future, which is very difficult to treat. The side effects can be maintained through the use of moisturisers and lotions," she said.
A patient currently undergoing the six-month treatment told Gulf News that her body underwent an adjustment period during the first few weeks of taking the medication. Sarah M from Jordan said there has been noticeable improvement with regard to the acne on her face. "The side-effects are a bit annoying to deal with at first. "I got a few nose bleeds, and my lips, nose and eyes are always extremely dry so I carry lip balm and eye drops in my bag," she said.
However, the 25 year-old said the side-effects are a very small price to pay for the quick results. "It's just important to complete the six-month treatment despite the rate of improvement in your skin so you can ensure that the acne does not come back," Sarah added.
Another Dubai resident, Samiha Ahmad from Syria said that while chapped lips, hair thinning and depression were hard to deal with during the course of the treatment, the results were worth the pain. "I took a very high dosage for a shorter period of time, which they do not prescribe any more. But the trouble I went through eight years ago was worth the while as I have not had any acne since then."
Dr Hala observed that given the high success rate only one course of the treatment is necessitated in 85 per cent of patients. This treatment has been proven to be the most effective solution to becoming acne-free, she said.
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