Acne Scarring Can Be Prevented - and Treated
Acne has generally been viewed as a normal rite of passage from
adolescence to adulthood. Because of its visibility and its occurrence
during a difficult time of social development, acne may often have a
devastating effect on a teenager's self-confidence and self-esteem.
When severe, untreated acne can result in disfiguring scars.
"Acne does not have to be an inevitable part of growing up," stated
dermatologist Stephen Mandy, MD, Clinical Professor of Dermatology,
University of Miami, in Florida.
"Acne is a treatable medical condition that, if left untreated, can
last well beyond the teenage years. The only way to prevent the
physical and emotional scarring from acne is to treat the condition
before it becomes advanced."
Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition which affects 85%
of all teenagers, more than 20 million teens nationwide. In
approximately 30% of these individuals, acne will persist into
adulthood. Lesions are often found on the face, but may also be present
on the back and chest.
Acne is the result of a sequence of genetic and hormonal events that
begin with the onset of puberty. As hormone levels associated with the
development of secondary sexual characteristics rise, oil production in
the sebaceous glands of the face, back, and chest increase.
Some people experience a thickening of the lining of the wall of the
duct of the oil gland, a process called follicular hyperkeratosis. This
thickening ultimately leads to a blockage of the duct and subsequent
accumulation of oil beneath the skin in lesions called comedones, which
are commonly referred to as blackheads.
Bacteria, known as corynebacterium acnes, proliferate within these
comedones and produce free fatty acids which are very irritating to the
This process can lead to pustular and cystic lesions which can rupture and leave scars.
"While there is no cure for acne, there are a variety of effective
treatments which can control the sequence of events which cause acne,"
stated Dr. Mandy.
"A patient's dermatologist can determine the appropriate therapy
depending on the severity of the problem and the sensitivity of the
When acne treatment begins too late or is inadequate, scarring is
often the outcome. Fortunately, dermatologic surgery provides more safe
and effective treatments for acne scarring than ever before.
"Dermabrasion, the mechanical sanding of the upper layers of the
skin, is quite effective in improving scars," stated Dr. Mandy. "With
this procedure, a new layer of skin replaces the abraded skin during
healing, resulting in a smoother appearance." Dermabrasion is usuallyyy
performed once and most patients heal within 1 week.
The use of lasers has also had a significant impact in the treatment
of acne scarring. The Erbium:YAG laser, which emits light through short
bursts of energy that is absorbed by the water in the skin, allows for
very precise sculpting of irregular scars. Patients usually recover
from the procedure in 3 to 5 days and experience a short duration of
The CO2 laser works well for elevating depressed scars that give the
skin a crater-like appearance. Since the CO2 laser produces more heat
than the Erbium:YAG laser, it allows the energy emitted to penetrate
deeper into the skin and tighten the skin's collagen fibers. By
tightening the collagen fibers, the CO2 laser causes depressed scars to
elevate and normalize in appearance. In most cases, only a single
treatment is required to produce permanent results with either the
Erbium:YAG or CO2 laser.
"It is important for teenagers and their parents to realize that
both acne and acne scarring are treatable medical conditions," stated