The facial spots and scars of acne usually appear at puberty, the time when young people are most concerned about their looks. It can also affect the shoulders, back, and chest. The exact cause of acne is unknown, but diet, heredity, hygiene, and hormonal fluctuations may all play a part.
Sebum, from the skin’s sebaceous glands, act as a natural lubricant for the skin. However, when there is over-production of sebum, the glands get blocked and swell, causing blackheads and pimples. Sometimes, the blocked glands become infected. Pus and sebum can build up under the skin, forming larger pimples or cysts which can leave scars and pits.
The fluctuating hormone levels of puberty has a significant role in the onset of acne. The hormone androgen, produced in large quantities during puberty, appears to affect the amount of sebum released. The severity of an attack can vary from week to week as hormone levels change, and women often find that the condition gets worse before a period. The problem usually clears up as the sufferer reaches the early twenties.
Nevertheless, what if acne continues to torment you in later years?
There are many types of treatment for acne. Some doctors advise a change of diet — avoiding fatty and oily foods. Severe cases of acne may need a six-month course of antibiotic medication.
Phototherapy is another option for stubborn acne that doesn’t improve with other treatments. It uses a special type of light to kill the bacteria on your skin that cause acne.
How does it work?
The microorganisms in your skin are sensitive to particular kinds of light. When you expose your skin to these types of light, the microbes die. Phototherapy also shrinks the oil glands in your skin, so your skin makes less pore-clogging oil.
Phototherapy works on mild to moderate acne. Treatment is usually once a week at your dermatologist’s office; though UVB phototherapy lamps are now available for home use.
Your dermatologist will tell you to avoid tanning beds or stay out of the sun for a week or two before your treatment. They may also ask you to refrain from using your skin care products.
Some patients need special medicine before their treatment to make their skin more sensitive to the light. These medications are photosensitizers. They contain aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and methyl aminolevulinate (MAL).
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a combination of medicine and phototherapy. It clears up acne faster compared to treating it with light alone. Nonetheless, it can cause more side effects.
Phototherapy can reduce swelling and decrease the number of pimples in some people. Studies show that phototherapy clears up acne by 70% within 8 to 10 treatment sessions.
Do not use phototherapy lamps without doctor’s advice, as too much ultraviolet light can damage the skin and cause skin cancer.