What is acne and how does Accutane work
What causes acne?
Human skin has two necessary qualities. It is flexible and offers a waterproof protection to the rest of the body. Both these qualities are produced by a system of sebaceous glands which release an oil into the skin. These glands are sited next to the pores and follicles which produce body hair. When all is working well, the body produces just the right amount of oil. But, if anything disturbs the balance of hormones, too much oil may fill up the pores and trap the dead flakes of skin that would otherwise fall off. When this happens, a warm environment, much loved by a skin bacterium opens for business. The bacterium suddenly goes into overdrive replication and triggers an infection. The first you know of this is an emerging spot.
Who is most often affected?
At one time or another during puberty, it affects more than 80% of all teenagers but the majority "grow out of it". Only a relatively small percentage suffers the condition into adulthood. It is rare for the problem to affect people over the age of forty. The hormone most associated with acne is androgen and, despite the fact this is predominantly a male sex hormone, acne is five times more common among adult women than men. The reason for this is an imbalance caused by menstruation and pregnancy. In some women, the trigger is the use of one of the oral contraceptives.
How does accutane work?
It has two slightly different effects. The first is a reduction in the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands. The second is to make the oil less retentive so that more dead skin falls from the healthy skin. The combined result is that there are fewer welcoming warm pores for the bacterium to enjoy.
What is the build up to the use of accutane?
The first stage is to use creams and lotions like benzoyl peroxide. The theory is that keeping the surface of the skin clear of dead cells helps to prevent the formation of the right environment for the bacterium to start growing fast. If that fails, the second stage is the use of antibiotics to reduce the resulting infections in the pores and follicles. If these fail, whether on their own or in combination, dermatologists will usually confirm the use of accutane.
Why is the use of accutane limited?
There are no problems in the use of accutane by teenage boys and adult men. But there is a clear risk that the use of accutane during pregnancy will damage the fetus. A high percentage of babies are born with defects. Since acne is five times more common among women of child-bearing age, the use of accutane has to be tightly controlled.