Let’s start with the bad news. Everybody knows that acne is most common in teenagers but many people don’t believe that it can affect people of all ages. Now it’s time to believe it. In particular, the hormonal changes in women during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy can cause outbreaks of acne. Problems can also be caused by the use of oral contraceptives which affect the balance of hormones in the body. The first symptoms are blemishes on the skin of the face, neck and shoulders. In more advanced cases, it can spread down the chest and back. The medical profession takes power over ordinary conditions by using labels. You can use word “spot” if you like it. There must be far more impressive and frightening words found to ensure that ordinary people feel there is something more seriously wrong with them. In this case, there are five most commonly used words:

Comedones – this is the technical name for what you would call blackheads and whiteheads. Hairs on the body and scalp grow out of follicles. If these follicles get blocked up with some kind of lipids, the skin can darken. When the skin rises it goes pale.

Papules – if the blocked follicle is infected or becomes inflamed, the skin will turn red and feel tender to the touch.

Pustules – as the infection takes hold, pus is created which rises through the inflamed area to form a distinctive white eruption.

Nodules – these are solid lumps that form under the skin when the oil-producing glands are blocked. They can be painful.

Cysts – these are like nodules but the lumps are infected and generate pus. This can cause more serious eruptions like boils. Unless these are dealt with well, they can leave scars.

So if a doctor as an authority figure tells you that you have pustules, this reference to inflammation and infection causing pus sounds frightening so you are prepared to pay for treatment. If the same person told you it was a common-or-garden spot and it would go away of you ignored it, you would feel less inclined to reach for your money. Words are powerful tools when marketers want to manipulate their customers.

Does this mean we should not care about acne? Unfortunately, the current culture makes it difficult to ignore it. In the real world, it is not a disease. It does not cause any lasting damage to the body so not treatment is really justified. In the world created by the stories people tell about acne, immense social damage is caused to any individual who rejects the idea of treatment. It passes beyond simple embarrassment and becomes a serious threat to the self-confidence of the young. So, until culture can be put on a better basis, treatment is given. The strongest prescription only medication is accutane. If the other OTC and prescriptions drugs have failed, accutane beats acne. But it is a powerful drug and it should only be used under the supervision of a dermatologist. For some, the price of beating acne can be a very unfortunate side effect. It is always better to follow the guidance of the medical profession if you feel you must take their cures.

Filed under: Health Care

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