The curious case of acne - The Express Tribune

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Slay the villain and regain your self esteem.


It's the bane of a teenage existence, a social stigma unlike any other and one that continues to cause embarrassment. The annoying pimple, acne, red blotches on the face or other such skin problems have caused more heartache and grief in the world than can be measured. Had Romeo suddenly developed a small zit while waiting beneath Juliet's balcony, chances are he'd have fallen to a lonely death.

In fact, studies have shown that acne can lead to such a severe lack of self esteem that teenagers can become depressed, neurotic and in extreme cases commit suicide. According to the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health, 34 per cent of young people with acne problems had thought about killing themselves while 13 per cent had attempted suicide.

Pimples are also associated with oily skin and using cosmetics excessively. Additionally, it is often felt that people who have acne don't keep their faces clean enough, while this may not be entirely untrue, since whiteheads and pimples can be caused by dead cells and dirt lodged under the skin, more often than not "a person's dermatological problems are caused by their genetic make-up and hormonal changes," says Dr Khawar Nazir, a dermatologist at the Al Razi Health clinic. Since adolescence brings increased facial hair growth, the results of follicles clogging up and producing acne is prevalent among teenagers. Acne develops due to changes in the pilosebaceous units (skin structures consisting of a hair follicle and its associated gland) and is characterised by whiteheads, blackheads and cysts which can lead to possible scarring. Dr Nazir also elucidates that, "A family history of acne is associated with an earlier occurrence of acne and an increased number of retentional acne lesions, in other words, spots."

There are numerous treatments available in the market for reducing the fiend. Ointments containing ingredients such as retinoids, azelaic acid, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, which essentially clean the pores where acne develops, are available in many pharmacies. Aside from medical treatments, various innovative procedures like chemical peeling, hydra-facials, laser and light therapy can also be used to improve acne. A new FDA approved treatment called Photopneumatic Therapy has recently become rapidly popular and is said to be an effective approach to treating acne. In Photopneumatic Therapy, the skin is suctioned with a vacuum-like tool, bringing the pus to the surface and then the skin pores are beamed with intense pulsed light, reports By doing this, it both stuns and deactivates hyperactive sebum glands and kills the bacteria, eliminating the problem from its root. The process takes about 20 minutes and is quite painless. However, it's takes more than one session to see real results.

Dr Nazir further states that a healthy diet and cleanliness are also important for reducing acne. "A low dairy diet can help to control acne. Washing your face with an oily-skin cleanser will always help prevent clogging of pores caused by oil, cosmetics and dirt." He also revealed: "In my practice, I've seen patients using steroid creams to treat acne but to me that is a crime. Steroids are not an answer for acne but rather cause acne. Avoid picking pimples as it can lead to permanent scarring.  Like most things in medicine, prevention is better than cure."

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2011.

07 Sep, 2011

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