Acne of any kind can be frustrating, but severe, cystic acne is a particularly difficult skin condition to take on. Thankfully, you and your dermatologist can work together and get your cystic acne under control.
Cystic acne is a severe form of acne, a skin condition that forms in the sebaceous glands. Acne occurs when these glands, responsible for producing oil or sebum, get clogged by excess oil. With mild to moderate acne, this is where things stop. People with oily skin or who are undergoing hormonal shifts (like teens and pregnant women) are most likely to develop acne.
This is also true for cystic acne. Cystic acne forms deeper in the skin than other types of acne, and this makes it more complicated for a number of reasons. For one, cystic acne takes longer to form and go away. Since this acne can grow longer without risk of popping, cystic acne nodules become much larger than traditional acne. Making matters worse, cystic acne can be very painful and irritating.
While all forms of acne are unsightly and can negatively affect your self esteem, cystic acne is the worst of them all. Physically, cystic acne usually appears as large, red white, irritated bumps on the skin. Cystic acne can appear as a whitehead in many cases. Whiteheads are the sebum and other contaminants visibly accumulating beneath the skin. Cystic acne can form in many places, but mainly appears on the face, neck, chest, shoulders and back. Here’s one important thing to note: cystic acne is different from traditional cysts. A cyst is a sac of fluids or proteins that develop beneath the skin. While these can be triggered at the sebaceous gland, this isn’t always the case.
Cystic acne isn’t just painful and embarrassing, it can be harmful to your skin in permanent ways. With many cystic acne nodules themselves, and the damage they can do to the skin, infections are a risk. While it’s a lot more common for punctured skin from popped pimples to develop an infection, even the cysts themselves can develop infection. Sebum and other dirt being trapped under the skin can lead to infections. Large acne cysts have the potential to cause scarring, as these nodules can be traumatic for the skin. This trauma is caused by them lingering and growing large for so long, or from when they are punctured and the sebum is cleared from the cyst. Acne scarring is very common with people who don’t get the proper treatment for moderate to severe acne. Acne scars can be permanent and require their own treatments down the line. The best way to prevent acne scars and infection is to treat your severe acne.
Cystic acne is not the most simple condition to treat, because it’s more severe than typical acne. Fortunately, your dermatologist can work with you to make your cystic acne a thing of the past. Antibiotics coupled with topical medications are an effective treatment against severe and cystic acne. Antibiotics work to reduce inflammation and the redness of visible acne by eliminating bacteria. Topical medications that contain salicylic or other acids are often prescribed in conjunction with antibiotics.
The best option for treatment-resistant cystic acne is a drug called isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is an oral medication that is derived from vitamin A. It works by reducing the size of the sebaceous glands that produce oil. Smaller sebaceous glands produce less oil. Shrinking them also renders glands less susceptible to being clogged.
Cystic acne can be very frustrating, but with the help of your dermatologist, it doesn’t have to run your life. If you’re dealing with cystic acne, call the professionals at Northeast Dermatology Associates.
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