Acne is a disorder of the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Hair follicles are the areas around the base or root of each hair. Sebaceous glands are the tiny glands that release oil (sebum) into the hair follicles. The sebum moistens the skin and hair. The sebum and hair get to the skin surface through tiny holes called pores.
Acne is very common. Most children and young adults between ages 11 and 30 will have acne at some point. Acne most often begins in puberty. But it can happen at any age. There are different types of acne that affect newborns, infants, younger children, and adults.
Acne may occur when the pores get clogged with dead skin cells and oil. Bacteria that are normally on the skin may also get into the clogged pore. Acne comes in several types. One type is a comedone. This is a plug of sebum in the hair follicle. They are either closed whiteheads or open blackheads. These are not inflamed or infected.
Inflamed acne causes red, painful bumps or sores. The sores may be infected with bacteria. This type of acne includes:
The cause of acne is not fully understood. Acne is linked with:
Acne can occur anywhere on the body. It is most common in areas where there are more sebaceous glands, such as:
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
The symptoms of acne can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. Your child's provider will look at the areas of the body with acne. The provider may advise that your child see a healthcare provider who specializes in skin care (dermatologist).
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. The goal of acne treatment is to improve the skins appearance and to lessen the chance of scarring. Treatment for acne will include gentle, regular skin care. Your child's healthcare provider may advise:
Topical medicines are often prescribed to treat acne. These can be in the form of a cream, gel, lotion or liquid. These may include:
Medicines to take by mouth may be prescribed, such as:
Acne can cause problems with self-esteem. It may cause emotional problems. It may result in depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Severe or long-term acne may cause scarring. Serious infections may also develop.
Acne can be a long-term condition. Early treatment can help to prevent or lessen severe acne. Help your child by:
Call your child's healthcare provider if:
The pediatric specialists at Children's National Hospital have the expertise to diagnose, treat and manage conditions of the skin, nails and hair common in infant and younger patients. Discover more about the treatments we offer.
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The Division of Dermatology at Children's National Hospital continues to expand services as more families seek our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, hair and nails.