Acne Vulgaris

What is Acne Vulgaris?

When you were younger, you would have called this breaking out of the skin pimples or blemishes, and in our teenage rite of passage, most of us suffered some degree of heartbreak from these blemishes that always seemed to choose precisely the wrong time to erupt. And although the problem afflicts teenage boys far and away more than girls, neither sex is exempt. And although we hate to be the bearer of bad news to the Boomers among my readers, the trouble doesn't always end at maturity. We recall a 44-year-old patient of mine remarking once that it just didn't seem fair to fight zits and wrinkles at the same time. (Fortunately, however, there are some vitaminbased medical treatments that may actually help both.)

Acne Vulgaris The problem usually begins at puberty when the surging of reproductive hormones (especially the male hormone testosterone, which both sexes have to some degree) stimulates an increase in activity of the oil-producing glands of the skin. The oil gland in the skin has a shape much like a round-bellied flask with a hollow bowl and a skinny neck. Overproduction of oil—or sebum, in correct medical parlance—fills the bowl of the gland to overflowing and plugs up the neck. Bacteria on the skin rush into the plugged area, which becomes inflamed and even infected. And voila, the pimple forms. It may be alone, or it may be one of an army of blemishes across the forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, front of the chest, and the back. The outbreaks may be fairly constant, may wax and wane with the monthly menstrual cycle in women, or may correspond to surges in reproductive/sex hormones in both sexes (i.e., worsening at puberty).

Some people inherit a tendency for severe acne that forms large boil-like cysts, which heal leaving the skin cratered with pocks and scars. While this form of acne, called cystic acne, will benefit from the vitamin and mineral regimens we will describe next, these severe cases may also require more potent vitamin-like medications that only a physician can prescribe and that have enough side effects to warrant close monitoring by that physician during the course of treatment.

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