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Acne: Not Just A Teen-age Problem

Acne is typically thought of as a teen-age complaint. But according to the American Academy Of Dermatology, nearly 12 million Americans well past their teens are battling zits, otherwise known as "adult acne."

If you, or someone you know, suffers from it, Dr. Marsha Gordon from Mount Sinai's School Of Medicine visits The Early Show on Friday to tell us the common triggers and treatment of this disease.

The following are a few facts about adult acne:

What is it? It's the process of oil glands getting clogged. The bacteria multiply, sometimes infecting the surrounding area and leading to a more dramatic and sometimes tender blemish.

Common triggers: It is not known what exactly causes adult acne. It is important to note that it is not caused by dirt, or related to the foods you eat; genetics can play a role. Common triggers are hormones and stress.

Who gets it: Certainly men can suffer from adult acne. But, according to Dr. Gordon, women are more frequently afflicted (four times as many women as men have it). This is one of the reasons many dermatologists believe that hormones certainly trigger your skin breaking out. It happens for many women during menstruation and at menopause.

Treatments: Over-the-counter products that can be used in the first line of defense generally contain: benzoyl peroxide (which will kill bacteria) or sulfur (which kills bacteria and reduces inflammation); if over-the-counter products do not work, you need to consult a dermatologist and from there the doctor may prescribe you antibiotics or special topical creams.

Here are Dr. Gordon's facial care tips:

  • Wash your face both morning and night. Do not go to sleep without removing your makeup. Resting your head against a pillow all night pushes the makeup deeper into the skin, increasing the likelihood of clogged pores. You should use a mild cleanser to remove the impurities.
  • Use noncomedogenic or oil-free facial products: This will help prevent your pores from being clogged.
  • Don't pop your zits. According to Dr. Gordon, this is never a good idea. Many patients end up scarring their face, as well as creating an infection risk. If you have a zit, go see your doctor.A cortisone shot can help. But never take matters into your own hands.
Other frequently asked questions:

What happens if you don't treat your acne?
Eventually, you will outgrow it to some degree. But you should treat it because acne untreated can create scars.

What is rosacea?
An estimated 14 million Americans suffer from rosacea. It's increasingly common as baby boomers enter middle age because most sufferers develop symptoms after age 30. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated.

Rosacea is related to "adult acne" simply because its symptoms are red bumps on the face, blushing, and for some it also means pimples and some swelling. It is a form of "acne," but it is not at all similar to the pore-clogging acne that we are discussing above.

This is a chronic disease, which usually appears as a subtle reddening on the face. It most often occurs in fair-skinned people of Irish, Scottish, English descent. There's no known cause. Many people who do suffer have a history of high sun exposure. Rosacea can start with initial symptoms of pimples, but then small blood vessels may appear and, unlike pore-clogging acne, there are no blackheads.

It is important to see a doctor if you suspect you have rosacea. Untreated, it can lead to a bumpy skin and a bulbous nose: comedian W.C. Fields was a famous sufferer. Ocular rosacea, which affects the eye, can cause vision problems, even blindness.

Marsha Gordon is a New York City dermatologist. She is the vice president of the dermatology department at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

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