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Cystic acne is the most severe type of acne. These are large, inflamed lesions that develop deep within the skin. Cysts are usually tender and may sometimes be filled with pus when squeezed. They are often painful or itchy. They can appear on the face, but most commonly, they appear on people’s back and chest areas with cystic acne. When these large lesions occur in clusters, they are called nodules. Cystic acne takes a long time to heal, even with treatment, so prevention is key!
How common is cystic acne?
Cystic acne is not very common. Less than 1% of the population has cystic acne, although some people have a higher risk. For example, if one or more of your family members have this type of acne, you may be at greater risk of having severe acne yourself. If you are insulin resistant and overweight, this will also increase your chances of getting severe types of acne, including cystic acne.
Who is prone to cystic acne?
People prone to cystic acne usually first develop mild forms of this type of acne as a teen. These mild forms may continue into adulthood for some people, but they clear up and stop for others. Those who have severe types of acne as an adult usually first developed mild acne as a teen that then clears up over time. This is not always the case, though, as some adults never had any acne as teens.
What are the causes of cystic acne:
- A plugged or clogged hair follicle.
A hair follicle is a small pocket in the skin where cells divide to create hair and sebum (oil). These pockets can become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. This is common if acne has been severe in the past.
- Abnormal shedding of cells inside a hair follicle
- Inflammation that causes infected sebum to spill out into surrounding tissue. It makes the nearby area inflamed and painful, leading to cystic acne nodules spilling more infected sebum into nearby tissue, leading to more inflammation, etc.
- Follicle wall rupture, which allows sebum to spill onto skin and tissue
- Bacterial infection of a hair follicle
- Genetic predisposition
What are the symptoms of cystic acne:
The most common symptoms of cystic acne include:
- Large, painful bumps on the skin may rupture and ooze or bleed. If they rupture, these lesions usually leave a deep scar after they heal.
- pus-filled nodules (the most significant type of acne lesion)
- Swollen, tender red lumps with a white centre (nodules) that can be very painful to touch or pressure
- Redness and swelling around the infected hair follicles which surrounds the acne lesions
- Deep scars on the skin from healed lesions as well as dark marks left on the skin from past lesions
- Itchy, scaly or rough patches of skin where cysts have previously developed
- Severe acne can lead to low self-esteem and depression in some people, so it is essential to seek treatment for this problem!
How do dermatologists or skin doctors treat cystic acne:
Cystic acne is a condition that is extremely hard to treat, even with dermatologists. This usually requires:
- Topical Ointments: Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, which come in various forms, including gels, lotions, creams, or face washes. These are medications for mild cases of acne that reduce the number of comedones (blackheads) on the skin by reducing oil production.
- Oral Medication: Antibiotics are a standard oral treatment for cystic acne. These drugs help by killing the bacteria in hair follicles. Oral antibiotics may be used along with topical medications, if necessary.
- Systemic antibiotics (taken by mouth) are mainly reserved for severe cases of inflammatory acne like cystic acne that do not respond to other treatments, including antibiotic pills. When severe types of acne clear up, it is still possible for them to return months or years later after this type of medication is discontinued, which does not happen with milder forms of acne.
- Accutane (isotretinoin)is a potent drug with side effects and should only be taken seriously, especially since there are less harsh options available! This is a good option for those with severe cases of cystic acne who have not found success with other forms of treatment.
- Laser therapy can be effective in reducing cystic acne scars, including ice pick scars. Not all dermatologists are experienced in using this type of therapy, so it is essential to research their credentials before allowing them to work on your skin.
- Light and laser therapy –This may help reduce some types of acne by shrinking oil glands or killing bacteria on the skin. Red and blue lights and topical medications or systemic antibiotics have been used to treat inflammatory acne, including cystic acne that has not responded well to other treatments alone (systemic antibiotics). For more severely inflamed nodules, photodynamic therapy (light therapy combined with the aminolevulinic acid topical) may be used.
- Retinoids are drugs related to vitamin A, often used to treat acne, especially blackheads and whiteheads. Retinoids work by slowing down the production of skin cells that line hair follicles in the skin. This decreases the amount of oil released by oil glands, making it harder for acne bacteria to survive. It also makes pores less likely to clog up.
- Microdermabrasion: This process uses fine crystals or a vacuum-like device to gently remove the top layers of dead skin on the face. Transforming growth factor (TGF) is a protein that may play a role in helping new skin form, which stimulates collagen production and new cell growth. This therapy can be performed at home by applying over-the-counter creams with alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid.
- Skin needling: Acne scarring has been treated using skin needling, also known as percutaneous collagen induction (PCI). In this procedure, tiny needles are used to puncture the skin and cause an injury under the skin. These injuries trigger the body to make new collagen, elastin, and ground substance, which helps the skin heal itself. This therapy is usually performed in a doctor’s office or spa by a dermatologist or other healthcare provider who has received additional training in this procedure.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT) for acne may be used for inflammatory types of acne that have not responded well to other treatments alone. The drug Porfimer sodium is taken orally or topically to help target the P. acnes bacteria at the root of the problem. The drug is activated with light exposure at specific wavelengths causing it to become toxic to certain cells, so it explicitly kills the harmful bacteria without affecting good cells.
- Laser resurfacing: This treatment uses laser light to remove or smooth acne scars, wrinkles, and red and brown marks left behind by old acne bumps.
- Chemical peels: Chemical peels can be effective for mild cases of inflammatory acne that have not responded to other treatments. The chemical peel used depends on the acne scars’ size, depth, and location and how much your skin can tolerate during the procedure. A solution is applied to the skin, which causes it to blister and eventually peel off a few days later. During this period, new skin forms underneath.
- Hyaluronic acid (HA) filler: Injecting hyaluronic acid (HA) filler such as Restylane or Juvederm into an acne scar can help reduce the appearance of a depressed acne scar.
How to prevent cystic acne:
- Don’t squeeze, pick at or scrub acne pimples – this could lead to infections, inflammation, and permanent scarring.
- Balance your hormones –learn what causes hormonal fluctuations so you can avoid these triggers
- Exercise regularly – the more active you are, the healthier your skin will be. For some people who produce too much sebum (oil) in their skin when they become very active, an over-the-counter drug called ketoconazole shampoo may reduce sebum secretion when used often throughout the day.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins C and E, which help boost immune function and protect against cell damage that can lead to acne.
- Avoid stress – stress has been known to cause acne outbreaks.
- Don’t use products with harsh chemicals such as glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and alcohol – they can further irritate your skin.
- Use an oil-free moisturizer-check the label on a product that you want to buy for a list of ingredients it contains. Look for a product labeled “noncomedogenic,” which means it won’t clog pores and lead to more acne.
- Use sunscreens –this will help prevent future discoloration from old acne scars or blemishes. You must wear sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days, because everyone needs protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
- Eat flaxseeds– these contain omega-three fatty acids that help fight inflammation and kill bacteria to help prevent acne. They are also rich in vitamin B6, which is essential for hormonal balance.
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your skin hydrated. Dehydration can lead to dry, scaly skin that’s more prone to developing breakouts.
What are natural treatments to prevent cystic acne:
- Use Aloe Vera: Aloe vera is an herbal plant that has been used for centuries to treat skin irritations and inflammations. It’s effective in reducing redness, swelling, and pain associated with acne. To use the aloe vera gel, you need to apply it to your skin after cleansing twice daily. You can also make a homemade aloe vera acne face mask by mixing two tablespoons of fresh aloe vera gel with yogurt or honey.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Indian cuisine that contains curcumin and potent anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin inhibits the growth of bacteria that cause acne, reduces oil production in the skin, kills existing pimples, and soothes irritated skin.
- Lemon: Lemons contain vitamin C and citric acid, which can help dry acne and fade dark marks left behind by previous outbreaks. The lemon juice’s citric acid helps unclog pores and clear up pimples, while vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that reduces redness and soothes irritated skin.
- Green tea: green tea is a popular beverage worldwide with several health benefits such as preventing osteoporosis, slowing down neurological degeneration, reducing blood pressure, and inhibiting blood clot formation. The catechins in green tea also have anti-inflammatory properties, which relieve many inflammatory conditions, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, etc. You can reduce redness and irritation by applying green tea as a toner on your skin twice daily.
- Egg whites: An egg white contains albumin, which is rich in sulphur that kills acne-causing bacteria. This helps prevent outbreaks from occurring and reduces the severity if you do get a pimple. Rub the egg white over your face until it dries, then rinse off with warm water after about 15 minutes.
- Choose homeopathy: Homeopathic treatment for acne boils down to identifying the root cause of acne and using homeopathic remedies that will help balance your body’s reaction towards acne, encourage skin renewal and fight infection.
Benefits of using the homeopathic treatment for acne:
There are several ways that homeopathic remedies can be used to treat this condition. Homeopathic treatment for acne treats the root cause of the acne breakouts and eliminates scarring and dark spots. A few of the benefits of using homeopathy are listed here:
- Homeopathic treatment is highly safe when compared with other forms of skin treatments. This is because homeopathic remedies usually do not have any side effects and these remedies are free from all kinds of toxins and chemicals that can cause other skin problems.
- The first step in homeopathy acne treatment is to determine the nature of the symptoms present by consulting a qualified homeopath to study the patient’s medical history.
Homeopathy treatment for acne offers a long-term cure, unlike topical medications that provide short-term relief. You can book an appointment through OHO Homeopathy to visit a registered homeopath. The homeopath will prescribe you a remedy based on your symptoms and even provide follow-up care if needed.