Cystic acne is a form of severe acne that requires medical intervention to treat. While commonly found on the face, it can also appear on the upper arms and trunk. Cystic acne affects fewer people than non-inflammatory acne, but it is often painful and difficult to treat. The condition usually affects adolescents and young adults and manifest as deep, tender bumps on the skin. These bumps are full of pus, which means they are typically soft to the touch. Cystic acne can itch and hurt, and if a cyst bursts, the infection can spread, becoming more dangerous. Either way, don’t avoid cystic acne treatment.


If you suspect you have cystic acne, you will need to visit a dermatologist. Frequently, this severe form of acne does not respond well to over-the-counter treatments, which means only a doctor can prescribe the medication for effective cystic acne treatment.


Cystic Acne Symptoms

Cystic acne occurs when cysts form beneath the skin. A combination of dry skin cells, oil, and bacteria can cause the initial swelling, but the lesion then becomes inflamed, resulting in deep-set cysts. It frequently occurs in people with oily skin, and it’s also more prominent in women, teens, and older adults who experience hormonal imbalances. Although cystic acne can improve as individuals age, the painful and stubborn bumps won’t leave on their own. A dermatologist is the best line of defense if you suspect you have the condition.

Cystic acne appears like boils on your skin, but cystic acne symptoms can involve a range of manifestations. This includes:

  • Redness
  • Large cysts filled with pus
  • Large white bumps
  • Tenderness and pain when pressed

Although acne cysts are most noticeable on the face, they are also common on the neck, arms, chest, and back. They can even appear behind the ears and on the shoulders.


Causes and Risk Factors for Cystic Acne

Our skin is full of oil-producing glands, which help to make the surface soft and pliable. Normal oil secretion protects the skin and hair follicles, but overproduction can congest the pores. This creates the perfect conditions for the development of cystic acne. Hormonal changes are the most common cause of acne during teenage years, menopause, and with certain medications. These hormonal changes affect the production and excretion of oil, and this overproduction of oil is the most significant, direct factor in acne development.

As a type, cystic acne is caused by the inflammation of these otherwise congested pores. The skin cell walls rupture, and the built-up oil, dead skin cells, and other bacteria seep into the surrounding skin. This causes deep-set inflammation, which often leads to infection.


Cystic Acne Treatment

Over-the-counter products rarely work for cystic acne treatment. As a result, you will need to see a doctor to receive care. Prescription acne products can enhance skin cell turnover, reduce oil production, combat bacterial infection, and reduce inflammation, which prevents scarring. You will see the results of most prescription acne drugs after about six weeks, and your skin may worsen before it improves. It can take from several months to years before your acne clears up completely.

When you visit a doctor for cystic acne, they will likely recommend a combination of oral antibiotics and prescription-strength gels, lotions, and/or creams. Some patients may find relief from birth control pills, which can aid in hormone rebalancing, as well as spironolactone, isotretinoin, and steroid injections. You and your doctor will work together to find a cystic acne treatment solution that works for your skin and lifestyle.


When to See a Doctor for Cystic Acne

Although cystic acne is a severe form of the condition, it is treatable. Patients must stick to their doctor’s medication schedule and recommendations. Avoid picking at or touching the cysts, as this will spread the infection, and do what you can to avoid inflammatory triggers, like direct sun exposure.

If you suspect you have cystic acne, schedule an appointment with the Skin Care Center of Southern Illinois. We can assess your condition, provide a diagnosis, and work to create a treatment plan that will rid your skin of lesions once and for all. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.