Acne – causes , symptoms, treatments and myths.

Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes spots to develop on the skin, usually on the face, back and chest.

Molluscum Contagiosum

The spots can range from surface blackheads and whiteheads – which are often mild – to deep, inflamed, pus-filled pustules and cysts, which can be severe and long-lasting and lead to scarring.

Read more about the symptoms of acne.

What can I do if I have acne?

Keeping your skin clean is important, but will not prevent new spots developing. Wash the affected area twice a day with a mild soap or cleanser, but do not scrub the skin too hard to avoid irritating it.

If your skin is dry, use a moisturiser . Most of these are now tested so they don’t cause spots (non-comedogenic).

Although acne can’t be cured, it can be controlled with treatment. Several creams, lotions and gels for treating spots are available at pharmacies.

If you develop acne, it’s a good idea to speak to your pharmacist for advice. Products containing a low concentration of benzoyl peroxide may be recommended, but be careful as this can bleach clothing.

If your acne is severe or appears on your chest and back, it may need to be treated with antibiotics or stronger creams that are only available on prescription.

When to see your GP

See your GP if you cannot control your acne with over-the-counter medication or if it is causing you distress and making you feel unhappy.

Also see your GP if you develop nodules or cysts, as they will need to be treated properly to avoid scarring.

Treatments can take up to three months to work, so don’t expect results overnight. Once they do start to work, the results are usually good.

Read more about treating acne.

Try to resist the temptation to pick or squeeze the spots as this can lead to permanent scarring.

Find out more about complications of acne.

Why do I have acne?

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Acne is most commonly linked to the changes in hormone levels during puberty, but can start at any age.

It affects the grease-producing glands next to the hair follicles in the skin. Certain hormones cause these glands to produce larger amounts of oil (abnormal sebum).

This abnormal sebum changes the activity of a usually harmless skin bacterium called P. acnes, which becomes more aggressive and causes inflammation and pus.

The hormones also thicken the inner lining of the hair follicle, causing blockage of the pores (opening of the hair follicles). Cleaning the skin does not help remove this blockage.

Acne is known to run in families. If both your mother and father had acne, it is likely that you will also have acne.

Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, can also lead to episodes of acne in women.

There is no evidence that diet, poor hygiene or sexual activity play a role in acne.

Read more about the causes of acne, including some common acne myths.

Who is affected?

Acne is very common in teenagers and younger adults. About 80% of people between the ages of 11 and 30 will be affected by acne.

Acne is most common between the ages of 14 and 17 in girls, and boys between 16 and 19.

Most people have acne on and off for several years before their symptoms start to improve as they get older. Acne often disappears when a person is in their mid-twenties.

In some cases, acne can continue into adult life. About 5% of women and 1% of men have acne over the age of 25.

Acne myths

Despite being one of the most widespread skin conditions, acne is also one of the most poorly understood. There are many myths and misconceptions about it:

  • “Acne is caused by a poor diet.” So far, research has not found any foods that cause acne. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is recommended because it is good for your heart and your health in general.
  • “Acne is caused by having dirty skin and poor hygiene.” Most of the biological reactions that trigger acne occur beneath the skin, not on the surface, so the cleanliness of your skin will have no effect on your acne. Washing your face more than twice a day could just aggravate your skin.
  • “Squeezing blackheads, whiteheads and spots is the best way to get rid of acne.” This could actually make symptoms worse and may leave you with scarring.
  • “Sexual activity can influence acne.” Having sex or masturbating will not make acne any better or worse.
  • “Sunbathing, sunbeds and sunlamps help improve the symptoms of acne.” There is no conclusive evidence that prolonged exposure to sunlight or using sunbeds or sunlamps can improve acne. Many medications used to treat acne can make your skin more sensitive to light, so exposure could cause painful damage to your skin, not to mention increase your risk of skin cancer.
  • “Acne is infectious.” You cannot pass acne on to other people.

[Original article on NHS Choices website]

Autism Talk News Flash – Possible high exposure to male hormones can lead to ASD in males.

A boy who developed autism
A boy who developed autism
So suggests some recent research from form the UK’s University of Cambridge. Dr Michael Lombardo and Prof Simon Baron-Cohen have conducted research which suggest that high exposure to testosterone ( and some other hormones) in the womb can lead to a diagnosis of ASD in later life. However this applies to boys rather than girls.

According to Baron-Cohen this is one of the first non genetic markers which has been so far identified.

But this does not mean that presence of these hormones will provide a pre-natal teat for autism or will blocking these hormones lead prevent the development of autism. The hormones are necessary for the development of a healthy foetus.

You can read up on the research in more detail at the BBC web site here.

The Menopause. Have you ever treated the menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or other treatment?

The Menopause. Have you ever treated the menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or other treatment?
The Menopause. Have you ever treated the menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or other treatment?

Over the last week or so my wife and I have started to watch the US TV series “House of Cards”.  If you have any interest in politics and the goings on of the US Congress I’d really recommend it.  But TV reviewing is not really part of the remit of this blog.  The reason I bring the subject up is that Claire Underwood (brilliantly played by Robin Wright) is portrayed as going through the menopause.

Now this really interested both of us.   While the menopause is a reality for so many women it does not seem to feature much in dramas and books.  It is almost seems to be intentionally ignored.  Which is odd for an event which almost all women will experience and  is referred to by some as the “change in life”.

This leads me to the point of this blog.  We are asking our readers to share their experiences of the menopause and how it has affected their lives.

In a nutshell the menopause is when a woman stops menstruating.  This means that she no longer produces eggs and thus ceases to be able to have children.  According to the UK’s NHS web site “The menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the body’s sex hormones.  In the lead up to the menopause (perimenopause) oestrogen levels decrease, this causes the ovaries to stop producing an egg each month (ovulation). Oestrogen is the female sex hormone that regulates a woman’s periods.”

In practice this can mean:-

  • Heart palpitations i.e. a change in heart rate
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Hot flushes
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Urinary tract infections

So how is the menopause treated? In fact for many women no treatment is necessary as symptoms can be very mild. But for those women who have stronger symptoms there are a number of treatments. Most notable is Hormone Replacement Therapy  or HRT. This is where the oestrogen produced by the women’s body is replaced by an artificial source. This could be in the form of a patch, tablet or even an implant.  Other women can be treated with a synthetic hormone called Tibolone which acts in a very similar fashion to HRT.

Some women have tried herbal treatments and vitamin supplements to deal with the symptoms of the menopause.

So over to you.  We are very interested in your views and experiences in and around the menopause.  Anything you wish to share will be of great interest to our other readers.  But it would be great if you could consider some of the following questions.

1)      Why does such a major event as the menopause seem to be brushed under the carpet by the mass media?

2)      What symptoms of the menopause have you had?

3)      How did the menopause affect your lifestyle?

4)      What treatments did you use and how successful were they?

5)      What one piece of advice would you give to a woman who has just started the menopause?

Thanks very much in advance.