Acne is the greatest physical fear every teenager faces especially in high school. Acne is a natural occurring disease, but for young people, it can be a symbol of ridicule and exclusion like the scarlet letter. There are so many products out there designed to help treat acne that it can be overwhelming. No teenager ever wants to go to school with a facial breakout. It ruins their self-confidence, hides their personality and also their individuality.
What Is Acne?
Acne affects everyone differently but it affects young adolescents more. Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles or the pores get clogged with dead skin cells and oil created by your skin. Acne is most common on the parts of your skin with the greatest number of oil glands. These parts of the skin are located on your face, upper part of the chest, and back. Young people are affected more due to an increase in production of hormones such as testosterone during puberty as well as their growth spurts.
There are four different types of acne (#acne) known primarily as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and greasy skin. The first three types are basically what you normally see. Blackheads is when the center of the acne is black, while whiteheads have white pus on the tip. Pimples are considered red in color and the redness indicates inflammation or infection. Greasy skin is a little more complicated because it is a form of dermatitis which has scaly, flaky, itchy, and reddish skin.
There are four processes that result in acne occurring on your skin. The first process is when there is a higher than normal amount of sebum production. Sebum is a chemical compound secreted by the Sebaceous gland designed to lubricate and waterproof your skin. Any change in the chemical nature of sebum can lead to acne. The second process is the excess deposits of the protein keratin which leads to dead skin cells joining together and capping the hair follicle or blocking the oil ducts. The third process is by a bacterial infection and colonization of the follicle by the bacteria P. acnes. The final process by which acne occurs is the local release of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the skin which generate a reaction.
The Treatment Of Acne
Based on what you might think or heard, acne is not an issue of cleanliness. We all try facial cleaning products to help clean pores but genetics has a large part in determining acne as well as diet. Also keep in mind that treating your skin with harsh chemicals can make things worse. The other thing to consider is that your skin is covered with bacteria, every door you touch, every counter you sit at causes a bacteria infection. At times you might have a bacterial infection that causes acne. The absolute worst thing you can do is pop acne due to the scarring it will cause and the effects on your face. You have to let nature take its course. I know easier said than done.
Imagine going on a blind date where first impressions are the most important. The sight of acne on your face reduces your confidence dramatically and becomes a focal point for self-awareness. You can try to use makeup, base, band-aids or whatever else is in your arsenal. Most instances, you can fake a sickness or postpone until the acne goes away. But if you are brave enough to go out as planned, in the back of your mind, you are wondering if the person across from you sees Mount Saint Helen that is coming out of your face. Every twitch, look or facial expression makes you wonder if that bull’s eye is on their scope. That is why treating acne is a multi billion dollar industry.
Consider that products such as Proactive, Murad, Clinique, Acnomel and the countless other products out there are so heavily promoted for the treatment of acne. Most work by either reducing the natural oil production of your skin, speeding up skin cell turnover, fighting bacterial infection or reducing inflammation which helps prevent scarring. Each product has testimonials or celebrity endorsements of how well it has worked for them and why you should try it. If you look at Proactive, the main ingredient is salicylic acid which has been known to treat acne by itself. If you compare it to Clinique acne, the same amount of salicylic acid as Proactive (2%)is listed on the active ingredients label. So how can you say one is better than the other. The same thing goes for the other related products on the market. They all have similar or the same amount of salicylic acid as the active ingredient.
What Is Accutane?
Accutane (isotretinoin) is different in the sense that it is an oral pharmaceutical drug designed to treat acne. Unlike Proactive which is used externally, Accutane (#accutane)works ch emically from within. It has a chemical structure similar to vitamin A so it is considered a retinoid. Vitamin A is an important compound for cell growth and development, the immune system and good vision. The drug works by reducing the amount of oil released by oil glands on your skin and help your skin renew itself more quickly. This is accomplished by increasing the death rate of cells in various parts of the body and having cells regenerate quickly.
There are four important parts of the body that help kill off acne cells. First are the meibomian glands which are located in your eyelids and are important in helping to prevent dry eyes. Then there is the hypothalamus gland in your brain which releases hormones to control various functions such as hunger, fatigue, sleep, thirst and body temperature. The third gland is the hippocampus in the brain which is responsible for inhibition, memory and space. Finally the most important one for acne is the Sebaceous glands located in the skin which produce an oily or waxy matter, called sebum, to lubricate and waterproof the skin.
Accutane is the only acne drug that affects all four major processes in acne which makes it different from alternative treatments such as antibiotics. By working on all four processes, it is effective in helping treat acne. If you look at the early accutane reviews, you could see fabulous raves about how well it worked. Some users even provided accutane before and after photos showing their transformation. The accutane cost associated with treatment was reasonable considering how it empowered some individuals to regain their emotional identity. Although the accutane results were amazing, it was not all rainbows and gum drops.
Accutane Side Effects
The side effects of accutane were not completely well-studied prior to entering the general population. The main issue was the accutane birth defects detected by pregnant women. It turns out that 30-60% of all fetuses exposed to isotretinoin have developed neurocognitive impairment (memory, language, thinking and judgment). The effects are so devastating on unborn children that women must not get pregnant during treatment and for 1 month after therapy is complete. Even safe sex with a condom is not completely effective since 3% of all condoms are defective. Men can transfer isotretinoin during sex and risk the pregnancy. Sexual abstinence is almost a requirement for treatment. The FDA has joined in and also put strict controls on Accutane prescriptions due to the isotretinoin side effects. There is a website called iPledge that all pharmacists and doctors have to register for to keep track of all patients using Accutane.
It doesn’t just stop there. Other side effects observed in men and women include: anemia (decrease in red blood cells), thrombocytosis (high platelet count in the blood), neutropenia (low concentration of neutrophils), allergic skin reactions, mood alterations (such as anxiety or depression), headaches, dry eyes, eye irritation, nasal dryness, dry skin, rash, dry lips, dermatitis, back pain, muscle pain, increased triglycerides, increased cholesterol and increased blood sugar. For young adolescents in their growing years, the treatment of acne will cause a decrease in long bone growth (such as the tibia and fibula).
There is currently a series of accutane lawsuits due to developing gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. There are two main types: ulcerative colitis which is inflammation of the digestive tract and ulcers in the large intestine and rectum. The other is Crohns disease which is inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract. this will lead to abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, severe diarrhea, constant fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Both of these conditions can be devastating and life altering causing patients to suffer for years and some patients may require surgery to remove parts of the bowel (upper or lower intestine). Based on the side effect discovered, the FDA issued a black box warning on the use of this medication as well as the generic forms to protect the general public. I understand that physical appearance matters and impressions are crucial especially to young people, but our overall health has more value than acne.
Have you experienced any side effects from using medications such as Accutane for treating Acne?