Teenagers and many others with acne, seek five-minute cures for acne and a return to a clear skin free of blemishes. The truth is that there are no instant cures, but a twice daily routine and appropriate treatment based on the severity of acne, can alleviate acne’s distressing symptoms.
In recent years the treatment of acne in all its stages and levels of severity has advanced significantly. In many cases these advances have resulted in dramatic improvements in the sufferer’s appearance. Examples of new and better medication include tretinoin and isotretinoin (Roaccutane). Many young people would have been scarred by acne but for these advances.
So don’t despair! Appropriate and timely treatment can ensure that virtually no teenagers need to suffer a deterioration of their condition or permanent scarring.
The worse the acne, the more drastic the treatment
The choice of treatment depends on the stage to which the condition has advanced: the worse the problem, the more drastic the treatment.
The severity of acne is measured on a scale of 0 - 8, with anything higher than stage 2 necessitating medication available only on prescription.
In a nutshell, here’s how the stages of acne are graded:
- Stage 0: white- and blackheads (realy nothing to worry about)
- Stage 2: papules (small red bumps; We can still call this mild.)
- Stage 4: pustules (full-blown pimple; Yes, it has a ripe, yellow centre and is completely unwanted, but it is usually still in the superficial layers of the skin and can heal without leaving any permanent scars).
- Stage 6: nodules and cysts in the deeper layers of the skin (Things are getting bad. If you haven’t been to a dermatologist, consult one asap. If not, chances are you will end up with permanent acne scars).
- Stage 8: scars. (Even if you are left with acne scars, treatment can help).
Treatment options include:
- Home treatment with over-the-counter medications (usually creams), for mild, particularly non-inflammatory, cases of acne. This will include the treatment of blackheads and mild cases of papules. By adhering to a few simple guidelines, you can prevent you acne from getting worse. There are many over-the-counter medications (creams, lotions and gels) available. The OTC creams include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and others.
- Prescription creams and drugs for virtually all cases of acne where some of the pimples are inflamed, and even for non-inflammatory acne (blackheads). Prescription medication for acne includes tretinoin and other creams, topical and oral antibiotics, an anti-androgenic contraceptive pill and isotretinoin (Roaccutane) tablets. The cure rate for even severe cases of acne can be as high as 80% after five months of treatment.
- In some cases surgery for treatment of scars. Dermatologists can surgically remove scars associated with acne. Surgical treatments are used to remove scarred skin, exposing the underlying, unblemished skin layers.
- Other treatment includes controlled exposure to ultraviolet light, as prescribed by a dermatologist. This is of limited use and not highly favoured any more.
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD