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Acne (Acne Vulgaris) – Causes, Signs And Symptoms of Acne Vulgaris

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What is acne?

Acne (Acne Vulgaris), popularly known as pimples which you develop on your face is nothing but a disorder of the hair units. These hair units are found everywhere on your body except for your soles, palms, and lips. Each hair unit is made up of a hair follicle, hair strand, oil gland, and tiny muscles. In this article, you will get complete overview of causes of Acne vulgaris, Signs and symptoms of acnes vulgaris and all other factors.

When these hair units become clogged or infected they result in the formation of small bumps which are many a time painful to touch and yellow to dark red in color.

Acne usually affects teenagers and some young adults. About 90% of the people tend to develop acne during their adolescence which can have a cosmetic and psychological impact. About 12-14% of cases might linger into adulthood with social and psychological ramifications. below image represent the types of Acne, to know the causes and all signs and symptoms of acne vulgaris keep reading the article.

types of Acne, signs and symptoms of acne vulgaris

Even after the subsidence of acne, people are often left with tell-tale signs of acne in the form of acne scars which may be associated with psychological problems like low self-esteem, social withdrawal, anxiety, or depression.

In an individual, acne may present in different forms such as comedones, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. It may differ in numbers, severity, and extent. The causes of acne and how they are formed are discussed below. So, above are the types of acne, now lets have a look at causes of acne then we will move forward to signs and symptoms of acne vulgaris.

What are Causes of Acne Vulgaris?

causes of acne and signs and symptoms of acne vulgaris

If you want to treatment of this disease on time then you should know about signs and symptoms of Acne vulgaris. You will get everything about the signs and symptoms of acne here but first let’s have a look at the causes of Acne below:

1. Excess sebum (oil) in the skin: The oil-producing glands in the skin are stimulated by hormones after the onset of puberty to produce more oil. The oil may also become thickened which promotes clogging of the hair unit.

2. Clogged pores (hair unit): The excess of oil together with dead cells and bacteria forms a plug at the outlet of your hair unit. This clogs its opening which appears as black on the surface and is called a blackhead (open comedone). If the plug remains below the surface of the skin, it appears as white or pale white in color and thus called whitehead (closed comedone).

3. Bacterial infection: The bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes) infects these clogged hair units and results in swelling (inflammation). This is when your clogged pore becomes swollen and painful. The bacteria also initiate clogging of your hair unit resulting in comedone formation which also initiates acne formation.

4. Inflammation: As swelling advances, it leads to the formation of large solid bumps that may get filled with pus called pustules, or filled with a relatively clear fluid called cysts.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Acne Vulgaris?

Acne can be clinically divided into 4 grades on the basis of severity and the type of presentation. The grading helps your doctor to decide the right treatment for you. Following are the signs and symptoms of acne which is divided into 4 different grades:


Mild acne

Small, non – inflamed blackheads and whiteheads. Mostly found on the nose and forehead.

Greater number and extent 

of blackheads and whiteheads, now on cheeks, chin & jaw. Mildly noticeable with redness and/or small pustules.

Severe acne

Worsening redness and skin involvement. Increased number of papules and pustules. Can be easily seen and difficult to cover up. Scarring now becomes a concern.

The most severe

Now referred to as “cystic acne” – a painful condition involving pustules, papules & large cysts. Often spreads from face to other areas of the body such as the back. Scarring is nearly invisible.

What are the aggravating factors?

• Hormonal imbalance: Sometimes in females, multiple cysts in the ovaries called polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause acne in addition to irregular cycles, weight gain, and hair loss on the scalp & excessive hair on the face. In that case, blood testing is recommended– typically to be performed on the 2nd & 3rd day of your menstrual cycle. if you have read the signs and symptoms of Acne vulgaris then you should care about these factors.

• Heightened sensitivity: The aggravation of acne is commonly seen in the period just before menstruation. Though hormonal factors are implicated, it is the peripheral heightened sensitivity that causes acne.

• Diet: Diet is an important factor in aggravating acne. Acne is not caused by specific foods, but certain foods may make some people’s acne worse. Milk is known to increase insulin levels, which may worsen the severity. Cow’s milk also contains an amino acid that stimulates excess productions of IGF-1 which has been linked to the development of acne. Hence a better alternative is Almond milk.

• Whey Protein: Whey increases insulin levels and Casein increases IGF-1 levels resulting in flare-up of acne. A better alternative would be Plant-based protein like Orgain Organic Plant-based Protein powder.

• Alcohol: Alcohol is a diuretic which can dehydrate your skin, disturbing the skin PH. This leads to the overproduction of sebum, clogging the pores, and resulting in acne.

Dandruff: Dandruff can clog pores and lead to pimples on the face or back.

• Recent change in products or hair color: We frequently discover new-onset acne associated with a recent change in skin products, make-up, hair color, etc. Please evaluate any recent changes you have made in products.

• Emotional & physical stress

These aggravating factors are very important to know everyone. That’s why we have covered Causes and signs and symptoms of acne vulgaris before it.

What complications you can have due to acne?


• Scars


• Anxiety

• Lack of self-esteem

Acne scars are predominately of two types-atrophic and hypertrophic scars. Atrophic scars are more common and represent about 80-90% of the cases whereas rest 10-20% might have hypertrophic scars or keloids.

causes of acne scars

Treatment of acne scars is not complete unless preventive measures are undertaken in avoiding their development. The treatment of scars needs to be individualized if you already know signs and symptoms of Acne. No two patients are the same and no two acne scars are the same. There are numerous therapeutic modalities available for the management of the scars.

Atrophic scars are further divided as:

a) Ice pick scars

b) Boxcar scars

c) Rolling scars

What is the treatment of acne?

Well, if you know the signs and symptoms of Acne then it can be treated in three different ways such as topical therapy, systemic therapy, and home remedies.

Topical therapy:

1. Topical retinoids like retinoic acid, adapalene, and tretinoin are used alone or with other topical antibiotics or benzoyl peroxide.

2. Topical antibiotics like clindamycin 1% to 2%, nadifloxacin 1%, and azithromycin 1% gel and lotion are available. Estrogen is used for Grade 2 to Grade 4 acne.

Dr Rupika

Dr. Rupika Singh

MBBS, MD Dermatology
Fellow in Dermatology Laser Surgery


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