Acne in adolescents

A source of extreme annoyance to both female and male adolescents is their high susceptibility to skin trouble. The onset of acne is linked to the hormonal changes going on in the adolescent, which lead to an increase in the production of an oily substance (sebum) by the sebaceous glands. These glands within the skin pores normally produce sebum to keep the skin lubricated. However, in adolescence there is an overproduction of oil and some of it becomes trapped in the pores, which as a consequence become inflamed. The result is a ‘spot’, or pimple, that may become pus-filled.

These spots are usually concentrated on the face, but may also appear on the back of the neck, the chest, the arms, and the back. Squeezing or picking them can damage the skin further and result in larger spots and permanent scarring.

Acne normally begins at puberty and clears up in the late teens, although it can persist into adulthood. Approximately half of all male adolescents suffer from acne to some extent. In rare cases the acne is so severe that visible scars may be left after it has cleared up. Some forms of acne seem to run in families, particularly in those that have a predisposition to greasy skin.

Although acne does not pose a problem to general health it can cause acute embarrassment, making adolescents feel self-conscious. At an age when boys and girls are beginning to have sexual encounters, bad acne can be a major blow to their chances of obtaining a girlfriend or boyfriend. However, young people’s spots nearly always look far worse to themselves than they do to other people.

It is a fact that food affects acne. The best course of action to alleviate symptoms is to find out which foods make it worse (chocolate is a common example) and avoid them. The skin should also be washed twice a day – although it is not in fact dirt that causes acne -and the adolescent should endeavour to get plenty of sunshine, because the sun’s rays help to clear up the spots. Acne lotions may help, but over-treating spots may result in worse damage. In serious cases a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.