Updated 02 October 2018

Diagnosing acne

Acne is easily diagnosed by physical examination and medical history.

The diagnosis of acne is what dermatologists call a “clinical diagnosis”. In other words, your doctor will take a history and then do a physical examination. 

On examination, a person with acne will have oily skin, many blackheads and whiteheads, and red bumps and pustules (pimples). In more severe cases, cysts and nodules will be present (mainly on the face and upper trunk).

In women with an irregular menstrual cycle, it may be necessary to do hormonal blood tests as well as a sonar of the ovaries to exclude a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is characterised by small cysts on the ovaries and a hormonal imbalance. However, in most people with acne, no investigations or blood tests are necessary.

Read more: Treating acne

Reviewed by specialist dermatologist, Dr Ian Webster, MBChB (UCT) FF DERM (SA), February 2018


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