Adult Acne: Causes
Regardless of age, acne is a condition of the
sebaceous glands. These
glands are attached to hair follicles and produce an oily substance
called sebum. An acne lesion forms when a hair follicle
becomes plugged with sebum and dead cells. The pathogenic
(disease-causing) events in the sebaceous glands are believed to be
due in large degree to changes in levels of androgenic (male)
hormones in the body—a circumstance usually associated with the
growth and development that occurs between the ages of 12 and 21.
Therefore, it is important to look for an underlying cause of acne
that occurs for the first time in adulthood.
Acne that appears after 25 to 30 years
of age occurs for one of these reasons:
Recurrence of acne that cleared up
Flare-up of acne after a period of
relative quiet—for example, during pregnancy
Occurs for the first time in a person
who had never previously had acne.
Acne that appears for the first time in
adulthood should be examined by a dermatologist who can investigate
the underlying cause. Some causes of adult acne are:
Medication. Some medications
that can induce acne include anabolic steroids (sometimes used
illegally by athletes to “bulk up”), some anti-epileptic
medications, the anti-tuberculosis drugs isoniazid and rifampin,
lithium and iodine-containing medications.
Chronic physical pressure on the
skin. Chafing from the straps of a backpack or tucking a
violin between the jaw and chin can cause chronic physical
pressure on the skin and may induce a condition known as
Chlorinated industrial chemicals.
These may induce the occupational skin disorder known as
Metabolic conditions. Changes
in the hormonal balance, such as those brought about by pregnancy,
menstruation or hormonal abnormalities can induce acne.
It is also important to know that some
lesions which appear to be acne are not acne at all. One skin
condition that resembles acne is folliculitis, which occurs
when the hair follicles become infected and inflamed. Folliculitis
requires different treatment than acne.
Acne that occurs in adulthood may be
difficult to treat if there are multiple recurrences. Some patients
with severe recurrent acne have undergone repeated courses of
treatment with the potent systemic drug isotretinoin.
Since adult acne may be difficult to
treat, acne that appears for the first time in adulthood should be
examined and treated by a dermatologist.
An educational program brought to you by the American Academy of