What Are The Causes Of Acne?

What Are The Causes Of Acne?
Acne is a very common dermatological condition which can be quite disfiguring and have longer-term effects. It tends to affect adolescent people but is by no means limited to them. What are the causes of acne? Find the answers in our report, learn about the underlying causes and read about some acne myths that we debunk, too.

A Dermatological Disaster

The basis for an acne outbreak lies in the blockage of hair follicles in the skin. The follicles and associated sebaceous glands normally produce a natural protein called keratin. They also shed dead skin cells from the follicle lining, and a natural oil called sebum. In acne, keratin and sebum are produced to excess. The follicles become blocked by keratin, sebum and dead skin cells. The blockages lead to the symptoms of acne.

Once the follicles (or pores) get blocked, a specific bacterium called Propionibacterium which is normally harmless infects the blocked ducts. The result is inflammation and damage to the skin and underlying tissue. The bacterium (usually abbreviated to P. acnes) is anaerobic. This means that it does not use oxygen to survive. In fact, it does best in the absence of oxygen so it's perfectly adapted to cause maximum trouble in blocked pores.

It's All In Your Hormones

Both genetic factors and the body's hormones are key issues when considering what are the causes of acne. The rate of keratin production is linked to genetic factors. This is why acne has significant genetic dependency. In other words, it tends to run in families. Due to the presence of male hormones called androgens, the rate of sebum production increases in puberty. The male sex hormones cause enlargement of the sebaceous glands and increase the rate of sebum production.
The effect on the skin's pores varies. They may be blocked, become enlarged and appear as blackheads, papules, pustules and so on. Some may become closed pockets of dead skin cells, these are a very common dermatological feature known as milia and are not limited to acne. In girls and women, hormonal changes linked to menstruation may also contribute to the likelihood of an acne outbreak.
Just for the record, the androgens that are associated with acne are testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). There's another similar cause which does not arise naturally - steroids. The use of anabolic steroids can lead to acne as they have a very similar effect to naturally occurring androgens.

Although acne is frequently seen in adolescence and early adult life, it may break out later in life too. What are the causes of acne later on in life? Hormone activity naturally increases during pregnancy and as a consequence, pregnant women are disposed to suffering acne outbreaks. During the menopause, there is progressive reduction in the production of the female hormone estradiol, and acne is sometimes seen at this time as a result.

Other Causes Of Acne

There may be a relationship between stress and acne. Opinions do vary, but it is commonly proposed that an increase of stress may provoke or worsen an acne outbreak. The causality is still disputed. Although there is a likely correlation between stress and acne, it is not clear if the stress results from the challenges of enduring acne, or the other way round.

What are the causes of acne that we might be able to deal with ourselves? Perhaps we could avoid acne by making changes to our diet. There is good evidence that a high GL diet tends to make acne worse. GL is glycemic load, it expresses how much carbohydrate is present in the food and its effect on the levels of glucose in the blood. High GL food tends to cause large peaks in blood glucose levels which may in turn worsen the severity of acne, amongst other undesirable effects.

There is no evidence in favour of various popular myths, for example it is untrue that consuming products like chocolate gives rise to acne or makes it more severe.

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