Cystic acne

How to tell if you have cystic acne


Cystic acne is the most serious form of acne. It presents as red, pus-filled bumps on your skin, which can be painful and cause embarrassment. Mild acne, caused by excess sebum (grease) becoming trapped in the pores by dead skin cells, often develop into cystic acne when the trapped grease becomes infected by bacteria which usually live harmlessly on the skin.

Although acne is experienced by most people at least once in their lives, cystic acne is quite rare. Usually, it affects teenagers during the hormonal changes of puberty but can occur at any age.


What are the symptoms of cystic acne?

Cystic acne is easily identifiable. The cysts tend to be quite large and swollen and are often painful and tender to the touch. This is a sign that the pores have become infected.

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How is cystic acne treated?

Cystic acne can cause embarrassment and worry because of its appearance on the skin. You can consult a doctor for advice on how to treat it and prevent it from reoccurring in the future.

You may be tempted to pick or squeeze the cysts, but it is very important to resist. This often pushes the infection deeper, causing your acne to worsen and spread. If left untreated, cystic acne can lead to scarring, leaving shallow pits or raised, red marks on the skin.

Most over-the-counter products will not have much effect on cystic acne. With a prescription from a doctor, it can be treated with oral antibiotics (such as Lymecycline or Oxytetracycline), topical gels and creams (such as Duac or Differin), or certain medications that work by moderating your hormones. You can find out the full range of acne treatments available from Dr Felix here.

There are also precautionary measures you can take to prevent cystic acne or stop it from getting worse. Although it is important to keep the skin clean, excessive scrubbing or washing can irritate the affected area further and cause dryness. Cleanse the affected area gently no more than twice a day. Drinking plenty of water is always beneficial for the skin, as is maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and getting enough sleep. Try not to worry too much about your acne, as stress is linked to the same hormones which tend to be a cause of chronic acne. For advice on an acne-friendly skincare routine, click here.



NHS - Acne:

BMJ - Acne vulgaris:

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