One of the most serious topics of conversation among teenagers is the very common appearance of acne with its pimples, blackheads and pus pockets.
Often the teen-ager is teased about the “meaning” of the pimples. They are an obvious accompaniment of early manhood or early womanhood. They are therefore given many erroneous meanings, sometimes in jest and at other times in earnest.
Occasionally adolescents are told that acne results from working too hard. Counter to this, its appearance is often said to be a sign of too much laziness. Boys and girls are sometimes told it comes from eating too much, sometimes that it is a result of not eating enough of the right foods. They are warned frequently that the acne is a form of punishment for thinking too much about sex or for experimenting with sex. At other times they are leeringly told, “You’ll never get rid of those pimples till you’ve had a little fun.”
Pimples & Hormones
The truth, though somewhat complicated, is easier to understand and much less likely to cause apprehension. Fundamentally acne is brought on by the same life-moving substances that produce the rapid growth and sexual development of adolescence.
These substances, of course, are the hormones. One of the effects of the sudden abundance of adult-type hormones, male and female, happens to be an increased oiliness of the skin. The oily substance, called sebum, frequently plugs the pores, causing blackheads and pimples.
It is not dirt from the outside nor dirt from the inside that causes these blackheads. However, cleanliness certainly does play an important part in minimizing the unpleasant effects of acne. The glands in the skin that produce sebum (the sebaceous glands) are located on the face and the upper back-the places where acne lesions are most likely to appear.
Sometimes a large amount of the sebum becomes trapped in what starts out to be a small pimple, causing a large swelling to develop. In some instances germs invade the pimple or blackhead, causing pus to appear. Other manifestations of localized infection, such as increased swelling and redness, local heat, and tenderness, may also be seen.
Occasionally the body defenses that are keeping these processes locked up in localized areas are breached by the germ infestation. The staphylococci or streptococci or other invaders then spread to involve the tissues nearby. The resulting infection is called cellulitis. When the lymph circulation is involved, blood poisoning and swollen glands may result. Picking or squeezing pimples and blackheads is a very dangerous habit. Playing with a little pocket of infection may push the infection inward, instead of squeezing out all of the contents of the skin bump.
The region of the nose is a particularly dangerous spot for a sore or infected pimple. Blood from this area is drained through the brain, and a spread of the infection may cause serious brain damage. Any such infection must be treated with care and completeness by a competent medical authority. Present-day methods of treatment prevent brain involvement in practically all cases.