What if medications don’t work?
Acne is a horror story. It is not something you would want for yourself nor would you wish upon others. It is bothersome, embarrassing, and debilitating, especially if it affects your confidence and self-esteem, making you insecure and stressed. What’s more, acne isn’t created equal; thus, treatment is never one size fits all. Most of the time, it involves combining oral and topical medications and changing them from time to time until results are achieved. But are medications the only way to go? Are there other treatment options available?
If you’re suffering from acne, you are not alone. Millions of individuals around the world experience acne at some point in their lives. In a nutshell, acne can form as comedones (small bumps from clogged pores caused by oil glands and dead skin cells) such as blackheads and whiteheads. It can also be in the form of papules (or pimples), pustules (pus-filled pimples), nodules (painful, inflamed, and deep), and the severe type called cysts (painful, large, and deep with pus and blood). Acne is caused by a multitude of factors, such as hormones, bacteria, medications, sebum production, diet, and lifestyle, and this is why treatment options vary as well. Some oral medications may include doxycycline, tetracycline, birth control, and isotretinoin. Topical treatments that may also be prescribed could be benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids. Lasers and chemical peels also help hasten healing and improve skin texture. But there are also downsides of these medications, such as skin sensitivity for topicals and resistance to antibiotics if taken orally.
There is a condition where acne doesn’t respond to the usual medications. When an individual experiences intractable acne, this is when other treatment options are explored. Since acne is a multifactorial condition, there is a need to dig deeper to check other underlying causes that could be any of the following:
1. Lifestyle. How an individual manages and copes with stress is important to know as well, especially if it is supplemented by poor habits that can exacerbate sebum production and trigger acne.
• Does the patient smoke or drink alcohol regularly?
• Does the patient sleep late?
• Has the patient encountered an unfortunate life experience recently?
2. Hormones. The changes in hormones can also change sebum production and cause acne, which is why it is also important to know.
• Is the patient’s period regular?
• Is the patient pregnant?
• Does the patient have a hormone-related condition such as PCOS?
3. Other health issues. Existing conditions may also make acne harder to treat. Also, other non-acne medications have to be checked as well that may interfere with acne medications.
• Does the patient take other medications?
4. Diet. This should be checked as well because high-sugar, high GI foods can spike insulin and could also increase sebum production, leading to acne.
• What does the patient eat?
• Does the patient have a healthy, balanced diet?
5. Environmental triggers. Other factors to consider that may contribute to acne include products used on the skin and hair, items worn regularly, and so on.
• How is the patient’s hygiene?
• Is the patient regularly using items that cover the acne, such as helmets, masks, etc.?
• What skin and hair care items does the patient use?
Acne is a tricky problem but it doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. While there is no known cure for acne, it can definitely be managed with the right program.
The patient’s answers will reveal a clearer picture to the dermatologist who may add, remove, or change the treatment plan completely. Also called a holistic approach to acne, this is where treatment goes beyond the skin. While this would involve several trials and errors, doing this could treat the real underlying cause of the patient’s acne that could be key to long-term acne management.
Acne is a tricky problem but it doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. While there is no known cure for acne, it can definitely be managed with the right program. All it takes is patience, commitment, and discipline to follow the regimen, have regular check-ups, and trusting the process.