Updated 21 September 2017

What are the symptoms of acne?

Common symptoms of acne include whiteheads, blackheads and oiliness.

Skin lesions most commonly involve the face, neck, shoulders and back.

When you look at a patient with acne you may see:

  • whiteheads
  • blackheads - dark spots with open pores at the centre
  • increased greasiness of the skin.

When these lesions are present, the condition is termed non-inflammatory acne.

More severe acne may present as:

  • small red bumps
  • Red swellings or bumps that are visibly filled with pus (zits/pimples/pustules) – on the face, chest, shoulders, neck and/or upper back
  • Large, inflamed, red, firm fluid-filled lumps (nodules) under the skin
  • Large, inflamed, red, soft bumps (cysts) under the skin that may become as large as 2,5 cm across.

When these lesions are present the condition is termed inflammatory acne. Healing of inflammatory lesions may lead to scarring and post-inflammatory pigmentation (dark spots).

A patient with acne may show only non-inflammatory lesions or a combination of non-inflammatory and inflammatory lesions with or wihout scars and brown spots.

Acne may cause embarrassment, frustration and anger, and sufferers tend to withdraw from school and social activities. Acne certainly impairs quality of life.

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

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