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Updated 18 July 2014

What is acne?

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when the sebaceous (oil-secreting) glands in the skin and along hair shafts become clogged and inflamed, or infected by bacteria.

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Acne is a skin condition that occurs when the sebaceous (oil-secreting) glands in the skin and along hair shafts become clogged and inflamed, and infected by bacteria.

Blackheads and whiteheads form in the clogged pores. Blackheads are small, usually flat spots with black centres. Whiteheads are similar, but because thay are closed, they don't have dark centres. Both blackheads and whiteheads may develop into swollen, tender papules (pimples) and pustules.

If acne is severe, large pimples – called cysts, nodules or cystic lesions – form firm swellings deep under the skin. They become inflamed and may develop into painful lumps; leading to scarring.

Acne is not limited to teenagers. Rarely, babies are born with acne and some people get acne for the first time after they’ve reached adulthood. Most people outgrow acne; but in women it may last until the menopause. 5% of women of 40 years of age have acne; but only 1% of men in that age group.

Acne can develop on your face, neck, chest, shoulders or back. The severity may differ from person to person and may fluctuate over time. Acne often has an adverse emotional effect on sufferers.

There is no cure for acne, but effective treatment is available. Severe acne requires medical treatment.

Reviewed by Professor H.F Jordaan, MBChb, MMed (Derm)

Read more:
What causes acne?
How is acne treated?
Prescription medication for acne

 
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