Medical information for patients


Acne is a condition of the skin which causes spots, especially on the face, shoulders, and upper back. Acne tends to begin at puberty, and although most sufferers are over it within a few years, it may carry on for life.


Spots form in the glands of the skin that produce protective oils (sebaceous glands). The places where the spots usually occur are the face, shoulders, and upper back.

Acne may result in:

Some people are more at risk of developing an obvious or raised scar to any injury or cut. This reaction is known as keloid formation, and in people that have that tendency there is more scarring as a result of acne.


Acne begins with the changes of puberty and is due to the change in hormones. It seems that it is usually a case of the skin over-reacting to the hormone levels, rather than there being particularly high hormone levels in those people who get bad acne.

  1. The glands produce too much of their oils (sebum).
  2. There are tubes (ducts) that run to the surface of the skin from these glands. Too many of the cells lining the ducts are produced.
  3. This leads to tiny plugs blocking the ducts.
  4. The glands continue to secrete, leading to swelling behind the plug.
  5. The blocked ducts become infected with a germ (Propionibacterium acnes), which leads to inflammation and the production of larger, redder spots, sometimes filled with pus.


Some of these treatments may be obtained direct from the supermarket, but if you have any more than a minor problem you should consult a pharmacist or your doctor. As with all other medications, anything that can have a useful effect is also capable of having unwanted or harmful effects. Read the instructions, and discuss any concerns with your pharmacist or doctor.

Be patient! Treatment may take a few weeks to start having useful effects. The approach should be one of regular use, not just treating a spot when it arrives.


Further information


Understanding Skin Problems, by Linda Papadopoulous, Carl Walker
Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis and related conditions. Also available as a Kindle ebook.

Related products

You can find acne, skin care and other useful products in the Medinfo Shop, including treatments containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

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