Acne is a common skin disease which is characterized by the appearance of pimples on the face, chest, and back. It is an inflammatory condition involving the sebaceous glands of the skin.
Mechanism in the formation of acne
The hair follicle of the skin is surrounded by the sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland secretes sebum. Sebum is an oily and waxy secretion that protects the skin and keeps the skin waterproof. The sebaceous gland is connected to the hair follicle by the sebaceous duct. The sebum secreted by the sebaceous gland is released into the sebaceous duct. The sebaceous glands are distributed over the entire body except the palms and soles. They are present most abundantly on the scalp, face and the neck. When the production of the sebum increases it may lead to the blocking of the sebaceous duct. This results in the production of the acne.
Acne commonly occurs during puberty
The sebaceous glands are large and well developed at birth. They gradually shrink in size during childhood but enlarge again at the time of puberty. They secrete excess amount of sebum during puberty. This may lead to the blocking of the sebaceous duct, thereby resulting in the formation of acne. Studies have suggested that excessive production of sebum during puberty may be triggered by increased levels of a hormone called testosterone. Testosterone surge occurs during puberty. This hormone plays an important role in stimulating the growth and the development of the penis and testicles in boys. Testosterone is also necessary for building up muscle and bone strength in girls. The sebaceous glands are particularly sensitive to hormones. So it is thought that the increased testosterone causes the glands to produce much more sebum than the skin actually needs.
Women are more likely to suffer from acne than men
According to some dermatologists many cases of adult acne are a result of the changes in hormone levels that many women will experience at certain points during their life. Possible causes of acne in women are listed below:
Some women experience flare up of their acne just before their periods are due. This may be caused as a result of increased levels of the hormone progesterone and estrogen.
Many women experience flare up of their acne during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is again attributed to the hormonal changes in the pregnant woman.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
This is a common condition and it may lead to weight gain and formation of acne in some women.
Acne may be caused due to increased numbers of bacteria present on the skin surface
Propionibacterium acnes, is a bacteria that is normally present on the surface of the skin. The bacteria use sebum as a nutrient for its growth. Hence it is a normal inhabitant of the skin surface. Research has found that people suffering from acne show increased numbers of these bacteria on the skin. Due to the increased numbers of the bacteria, there is an increase in the number of the protective white blood cells which is an immune response of the body to fight these bacteria. These white blood cells, in the process of fighting the bacteria, secrete various enzymes. This results in an inflammatory response which in turn causes the formation of papules, pustules and acne.