Acne is the term for the blocked pores (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples, and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that can appear typically on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Seventeen million Americans currently have acne, making it the most common skin disease in the country. While it affects mostly teenagers, and almost all teenagers have some form of acne, adults of any age can have it. Acne is not life-threatening, but it can cause physical disfigurement (scarring) and emotional distress.
Sebaceous glands are attached to hair follicles in the skin on the face, neck, back, and chest. They produce an oily substance called sebum, which normally reaches the skin surface through the opening of the follicle (pore). When follicles become plugged, sebum cannot reach the surface of the skin. This blocked sebum promotes the growth of bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes) beneath the skin, which in turn produce chemicals and enzymes that attract white blood cells, causing inflammation. Eventually, the follicle wall breaks down and the sebum, skin cells and bacteria erupt to form lesions or pimples. These are the visible effects of acne.
Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that causes redness and swelling on the face. The scalp, neck, ears, chest, back and/or eyes may also be affected. Symptoms range from red pimples, lines, and visible blood vessels to dry or burning skin and a tendency to flush easily. Many people find that the emotional effects of rosacea – such as low self-confidence and avoidance of social situations – are more difficult to handle than the physical ones. Although it can affect anyone, rosacea typically appears in light-skinned, light-haired adults aged 30-50. It is not yet known what causes rosacea and the disease is not curable, although it can be treated with topical and oral medications, laser therapy or laser surgery.
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