Acne conglobata is a form of acne where nodules develop and grow under the skin. As they develop, they grow together, creating an inflammatory response. This type of acne is most prevalent on the face, chest, and back. While this is one of the less common forms of acne, it typically requires professional treatment. Due to the extensive nodules formed, it can lead to significant, and even disfiguring, scars.
While acne conglobata can be a challenge to deal with, medical treatments are available. These treatments can not only treat acne but minimize the potential for scarring as well.
Acne Conglobata Symptoms
With acne conglobata, nodules form deep in the pores. This nodular acne is a combination of bacteria, skin cells, and sebum. The combination hardens into plugs beneath the skin.
Many people experience the occasional cystic acne outbreak. Acne conglobata is different. Cystic acne is made up of a singular nodule, while acne conglobata is made of multiple nodules that then grow together.
This acne results in the skin around the affected area becoming swollen and red. As part of the symptoms of acne conglobata, the skin will develop flesh-colored comedones. If accidentally popped, bad-smelling pus may leak out.
Causes and Risk Factors
Acne conglobata typically develop in the teen years and may continue for years. It is more common in men than women and Caucasians are more prone to it than other ethnicities. It is sometimes triggered by autoimmune conditions.
Treatments and Prognosis
Acne conglobata does not respond well to over-the-counter treatment. It spreads deep beneath the skin, making it resistant to topical treatments. You will need to visit a dermatologist to receive a diagnosis and begin treatment. It is common to use a combination of topical and oral prescription medications as treatment for this condition.
Prescription topical treatments commonly used for acne conglobata include prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, which helps dissolve the build-up of dead skin cells and oil on the surface of the skin as well as corticosteroids which can manage inflammation.
The most effective oral medication for acne conglobata is isotretinoin, which helps reduce the production of oil in pores. This medication is only used for a temporary period while you clear up your skin condition. It can have serious side effects, so it is important to talk to your doctor before you begin treatment so you know what to expect. Possible side effects include complications if you become pregnant while on the medication, depression, and sensitivity to the sun.
Your doctor may also recommend oral steroids if the topical corticosteroid cream does not reduce inflammation. If you are a female, your doctor may recommend birth control pills or other anti-androgen options, as testosterone may increase the development of these nodules.
Your doctor can also recommend treatments for any scarring you may already have from acne conglobata. If the scarring is severe, your doctor may recommend excision to remove the existing scar tissue. Following up with steroids will reduce inflammation. Another treatment for severe scarring is skin grafting. In this procedure, your doctor takes healthy tissue from one area of your body to place on the affected area.
When to See a Doctor for Acne Conglobata
The best way to reduce scarring is to seek treatment as early as possible. For dark spots left after a breakout, your doctor may recommend a chemical peel or dermabrasion.
This type of acne is considered a chronic condition. Individuals who develop this condition in their teens may experience breakouts into their 30s. It is important to seek treatment and stay on a treatment plan recommended by your doctor. Stopping and resuming treatment is not recommended without talking to your doctor, as it can take several months for medications to become fully effective.
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