When we think of acne with think of what we call pimples popping up on our faces. Well, medically speaking acne and what we refer to as pimples are actually called lesions. Although it is not known why people get acne it occurs when the pores or hair follicles get clogged with an excess of oil that the oil glands produce.
When the pore gets clogged it swells. The bacteria on the skin and dead cells gorge the pore creating an inflammation at that site. We then have an eruption at that site we refer to as a pimple. There are different types of acne lesions ranging from mild to severe. Here is a brief description of the various kinds of acne and their characteristics.
Types of Acne
- Comendo - are classified as opened or closed. Opened comendo are commonly called blackheads. White heads are the ones that are referred to as closed. A blackhead which is a common sign in acne is actually a pore of a hair duct that is filled with hardened sebum (oil from the sebaceous glands). The sebum oxidizes which gives it the black color. The same pore is also partially blocked with dead cells and bacteria which harden with the sebum. It is given the name black head because of the black colored top that caps it off.
- Whiteheads are when a pore is completely blocked with sebum not allowing for it to drain. Again trapped with the oil is bacteria. The oil gets broken down into a free fatty acid by enzymes. Its the free fatty acid that causes swelling, irritation, redness and pus in the pore. Sometimes the closed comendo or whitehead erupts and causes a low grade inflammatory reaction. The same goes for when people try to pop them; and they get inflamed and infected.
- Papules - are categorized as red bumps but have no heads. These lesions do not have pus like whiteheads. Papules are formed when there is a break in the follicle wall. The break can fill with bacteria and cellular debris which enters the dermis. When this happens the follicle can become irritated. This is when a papule can become a pustule.
- Pustule - Once a papule becomes irritated and inflamed it becomes infected. White blood cells invade the site and the papule becomes a pustule. This lesion looks like a red bump with a white or yellow center. The center or cap is pus that develops from a combination of bacteria, cellular debris and oil. This is generally what a classic acne pimple looks like.
- Nodules - This type of lesion is inflammation and swelling that occurs deep in the dermis which is the skins second layer. The dermis becomes infected by a follicle that leaks debris from the follicle into the dermis after it ruptures. This type of break out needs to be treated by a dermatologist. Nodules can cause pain and last for months if not treated medically.
- Lastly Cysts are similar to nodules the difference is they are pus filled. The pus however is sterile and does not carry infections. They are characterized as large inflamed lesions that can be very painful. These type of lesions make up the severe type of acne. They do work their way from the dermis to the epidermis causing damage and scarring if not treated properly. Cysts also need a dermatologist’s supervision.
Acne can be categorized into two types: inflamed and non-inflamed. Non inflamed acne is mainly whiteheads and blackheads. They also include what they call red breakouts sometimes with papules and pustules. Inflamed can include cysts and nodules and are more serious types of acne.