Cystic acne has got to be the most painful and disfiguring form of acne. Also known as nodulocystic acne, it creates cyst-like lumps under the skin that are in fact inflamed nodules. These are bigger than the small whiteheads or pimples of other varieties of acne vulgaris (common acne) although like those pimples, they usually contain white pus.
Cystic acne is rarer than other types but still it is fairly common.
Contrary to popular belief, acne is not caused by a lack of personal hygiene. The direct cause is an excess of sebum or oily fluid in the pores of the face, neck, chest, or back. The sebum blocks the pores which then become inflamed or infected.
Acne usually begins at puberty. It is believed that hormonal changes or imbalances in adolescents are the reason why there is an excess of sebum in the first place.
Even though hygiene issues are not the cause, if you have acne it is important to keep the area clean and try not to touch the pimples, to prevent the infection spreading.
Probably the worst feature of cystic acne is the scarring that it leaves behind. If a nodule or cyst is not treated immediately with medication it can leave a scar that in some cases will be permanent. In other cases it leaves a ‘macular scar’ which is not a true scar but an area of redness that will slowly fade within about 6 months.
It is better not to try to pop the pimples of cystic acne, especially when they are deep. You will often fail to extract the pus, making the cyst look worse and probably creating a bigger scar.
There are some medications that can have a remarkable effect on cystic acne in up to 90% of cases. The main one is Isotretinoin. This is a product that is derived from vitamin A. It is marketed under various brand names – one of the most common in the US is Accutane, but there are many other names for it.
You can also get an Isotretinoin product that is not taken internally but is used as a topical cream applied directly to the cysts. Brand names for this include Isotrex and Isotrexin.
These products can act very fast to clear up cysts and prevent scarring if taken quickly enough. However, always take medical advice before beginning to take a product like Isotretinoin. It is not safe for everyone, e.g. pregnant women should not take it. Consult with your dermatologist or doctor to find the best product for your acne.
Vitamin A is found in many fresh raw fruits and vegetables including most of the ones that are colored red, orange and yellow – for example, carrots. Increasing these in the diet may help to prevent future breakouts. Be careful if considering supplementing with vitamin A for cystic acne, however. It is possible to overdose with this vitamin.