Dr. Zarmina Ehsan is a graduate of the Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore. She has worked in various disciplines of medicine, including general medicine. She has five years of work experience in dermatology, and is presently teaching at the Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Lahore. The topic under discussion with her was acne vulgaris or pimples in common terminology.
Acne vulgaris is an inflammatory disorder of the skin. Mostly, teenagers are affected by this problem. It is a skin disorder commonly found during adolescence which affects more than 80% of teenagers, and frequently continues into adulthood.
The most important thing one must understand about acne is that it can only be controlled – since you have a genetic predisposition for it, you inherit it, and if you have inherited it from either parent, then all you can do is control it between the ages of 14 to 25, and prevent your skin from permanent scarring.
What are the causes of acne?
Ans: Acne has various causes, which are basically genetic in nature, but it is usually exacerbated by certain factors. We have often read in text books that diet patterns are not correlated with acne, but certain types of climates, particularly the hot and humid weather prevalent in Pakistan, and the consumption of certain oily foods, chocolate and carbonated soft drinks can have an adverse effect our skin and can aggravate acne. Therefore, even though these might not cause acne directly, they can have a contributing role towards aggravating it.
What preventive measures can be taken to control acne?
Ans: The most basic and important thing for the skin is to keep it absolutely clean and pollution free because due to the genetic predisposition of the pores of the skin to get blocked, they can get infected by the germs which are normally present on your skin and can give you different types of acne & comedonic acne (acne with black heads) and nodulistic acne (acne with pus), which can cause scarring. Thus, it is essential to keep ones skin clean to reduce bacteria. Moreover, the inclusion of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets also helps build up proper water content in the body which helps in cleansing the system.
What different remedial measures can be adopted to curb acne?
Ans: Remedial measures to control acne that can be taken at home are the use of acne soaps or the use of antibiotic gels and isoretenoid gels, e.g. Clinda, Isotrex or antibiotic creams like Retin A; however, instructions must be followed before using any medication and should only be used after consultation with a certified dermatologist.
In recent years, doctors have also used laser in treating acne successfully, and the use of chemical peels has also been prevalent, but with modest benefits. It is important to remember that all acne treatments require patience and perseverance and may take 2-3 months to start working.
The use of some natural products such as aloe vera, lemon and tea-tree oil have also been known to help control acne in several cases. If one follows the basic rules of skin care, such as adopting a daily cleansing regimen to keep the skin free of impurities, drink a lot of water, adopt a healthy diet which involves eating lots of fruits and vegetables and get adequate sleep, one can come very close to having clear skin.