Acne Types

Acne vulgaris is the most common form of the condition. “Vulgaris” does not mean “vulgar”; it means “common”. It affects approximately ninety percent of all adolescents, and fifty percent of adult women. Acne vulgaris is what most people think of when they think of spots and zits. It is a clogging of the hair follicles that leads to unsightly, and sometimes painful, skin lesions and pimples. It ranges in degree from mild to severe and, at its most severe, can cause scarring.

Many other types of acne exist, however. They’re listed below, along with definitions of the different types of pimples and skin lesions they cause.

Acne conglobata: A rare form of acne that usually affects males, acne conglobata covers the back, chest, and buttocks with pustules and nodules, which often connect under the skin. Because of this tendency to connect, severe bacterial infection is possible, as well as extensive scarring. Medical attention is required.

Acne cosmetica: As the name implies, acne cosmetcia is triggered by topical make-up. Characterized by small pink bumps, acne cosmetica is usually quite mild, with little chance of scarring.

Acne fulminans: A rare and extreme form of acne conglobata, acne fulminans almost always infects males. Symptoms include a sudden onset of pustules and nodules, infected nodules, fever, joint pain, and possible loss of weight or appetite. Acne fulminans is a serious condition and requires prompt medical attention.

Acne medicamentosa: Acne medicamentosa is caused by reactions to medicine or drugs. Women often experience acne medicamentosa when starting or ending birth control pills. Steroids and testosterone have also been implicated.

Acne rosacea: Acne rosacea is not true acne, but rather an inflammation of the face, neck or chest that results in red, bumpy, oily skin. Acne rosacea usually appears in people aged 30 to 60. It often begins as a short-term condition that can become chronic and cause facial scarring if not treated. Acne rosacea is often accompanied by acne vulgaris.

Comedonal acne: Acne characterized by whiteheads and blackheads, without other forms of skin lesions.

Comedones: Enlarged, plugged hair follicles. If the comedone is under the skin, it ‘s a whitehead. If it breaks the surface of the skin, it ‘s a blackhead.

Cyst: Similar to a pustule, a cyst is an inflamed, pus-filled lesion that goes deep into the skin, and can cause pain and scarring.

Cystic acne: One of the most severe forms of acne, cystic acne occurs when the infected contents of a pustule or pimple erupts beneath the skin, rather than on the surface. The body’s natural defenses then try to fight the infection, leading to swelling and pain. Cystic acne often causes facial scarring. While it usually occurs spontaneously, cystic acne can be caused by scratching and picking at pimples.

Macule: A temporary red area that is the result of a healing lesions. When macules are massed in an area they make the skin look an angry red.

Nodule: These are large, solid and often painful skin lesions that are buried deep in the skin layers.

Papules: Small, tender pink bumps on the skin.

Pustules: Also called pimples, pustules are inflamed, pus-filled comedones, often red around their edges.

Resources

American Academy of Dermatology. (1999). Acne. Retrieved March 19, 2002, from www.dermatologychannel.net/follicle/acne/.

American Academy of Dermatology. (1999). Patient information pamphlets. Retrieved March 19, 2002, from www.aad.org/pamphlets/.

National Library of Medicine. (updated 2001). Sebaceous cyst. Retrieved March 20, 2002, from www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000842.htm.

National Skin Centre (Singapore). (nd). Information on common skin diseases. Retrieved March 19, 2002, from www.nsc.gov.sg/cgi-bin/WB_GroupGen.pl?id=33.