Acne vulgaris, most commonly known as acne, is an incurable condition that affects the skin, preponderantly at teen age. The manifestations of acne are comedones, pustules, papules, or even nodules and cysts in the most severe forms of the disease. There are several popular names for acne lesions: blackheads, pimples, whiteheads, zits or blemishes.

Acne vulgaris develops mostly in several areas of the body: face, chest, back and buttocks. It usually appears in our puberty years, as a result of the hormonal changes our body is going through in its evolution from childhood to adulthood. These changes cause the sebum glands to increase their secretions, thus increasing the probability of pores and follicles to get clogged, leading to accumulations that can easily get infected and swollen.

The most common acne triggers are puberty, pregnancy, menstrual cycle or improper clothing. Although there are people who believe that acne exacerbations are associated with certain foods such as chocolate, with inadequate face cleaning, with masturbation or lack of sex, the Merck Manual of Medicine states these associations are unfounded. (Source: The Merck Manuals - online medical library).

Types of Acne Vulgaris by Severity

Depending on its severity, acne vulgaris can be mild, moderate or severe.

Mild acne is characterized by occasional appearance of comedones and it's not a problem for most affected persons. Lesions are either blackheads or whiteheads which very rarely go through inflammatory processes. Mild acne is usually treated with topical medication.

Moderate acne features the same type of lesions as the mild form, but with more frequent occurrence and in bigger numbers. In this stage, the condition can affect the social life and the self-esteem of the patients, especially if they are teenagers. Treatments include also oral antibiotics.

Severe acne is defined by the apparition of nodules and cysts, coexisting with common comedones and making life a nightmare. Lesions are painful and ugly, the disease being responsible for a decrease in the quality of life leading to depression or even suicide. The treatment has multiple forms, surgery being also recommended in some cases.

While over-the-counter medication can help reducing acne lesions, it's advisable that people who experience frequent outbreaks schedule an appointment with a dermatologist in order to prevent aggravation of the disease. Inadequate attempts of squeezing the comedones or repeated tearing off of the crusts may lead to permanent scars that make the skin look like the Moon surface, with volcanic craters spread all over. Getting rid of old acne scars is difficult and costly, as it implies laser surgery or dermabrasion procedures. Such expensive treatments may not always be covered by typical health insurance policies.