Acne is a very common chronic and recurring skin problem that affects most people at some point or another in their lives. It is common amongst teenagers, and is often associated with hormonal changes during puberty. However, it is possible for you to develop acne later on as an adult, even if you did not suffer from acne at a younger age. It usually starts when your pores and follicles become clogged with oil or dead skin, which causes the development of spots (blemishes, pimples or zits) on your face, neck, shoulders, back and chest.

You may have a mild case of acne, where you only have a few red spots, surface blackheads or whiteheads, or you could suffer from severe acne, where you have numerous pimples that cover your skin. Severe cases of acne can lead to deep, swollen and pus-filled cysts or pustules, which can often be quite painful and long-lasting often leading to scarring.

You may experience an acne outbreak around the time of your menstrual period or during pregnancy. In some cases, acne in women can be a symptom of polycystic ovaries syndrome. It is important to discuss this with your doctor if you suspect this might be the case.

There is no one cause of acne. Acne is thought to be hereditary in some instances. At times acne can be caused or made worse by the clogging of pores by oil-based skin products or cosmetics.

Mild acne heals over time; severe acne can become quite problematic. Multiple pimples covering large areas of your skin can be quite painful and may leave scars on your skin. Acne can break out in different types of skin problems which are easily identified. These are enlisted below:

  • Blackheads: open plugged pores that have a brownish appearance

  • Whiteheads: closed plugged pores that are  firmer

  • Papules: small, red and tender bumps that may also feel sore

  • Pustules (pimples): papules that have a pus-filled centre

  • Nodules: large and solid lumps that appear beneath the surface of your skin and can be quite painful

  • Cystic lesions: large, pus-filled lumps that appear beneath the surface of your skin. These are the most serious kind of acne and can lead to permanent scarring​

If you are suffering from acne and are concerned with the condition of your skin, you should visit your doctor or dermatologist who will be able to assess the severity of you problem and provide treatment accordingly. They will also be able to advise if your acne is getting worse, you are developing scars or your pimples are becoming large and pus-filled.

Mild acne is quite normal, and may clear on its own without any treatment. However, if you suffer from severe acne or your skin is causing you distress, The Aga Khan University and Hospital is home to renowned skin specialists who will be able to effectively treat your skin problem.
If you are experiencing other physical symptoms along with acne, such as facial hair growth (in women), then it may be possible that your acne is related to another disorder. Seek the advice of your doctor if you suspect that this might be the case. 
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started. 
Most often, there are no specialist tests required to diagnose acne. However, in certain situations your doctor may conduct further tests it he or she suspects that you may be experiencing a hormonal imbalance, which could lead to an acne flare-up. For women, they may ask about the regularity of your menstrual cycle, about whether or not you are experiencing any other symptoms (such as facial hair growth) and they may conduct further tests to see if you have a higher-than-normal level of testosterone. 
Understandably, acne can be quite distressing and may start to take a toll on your self-esteem. Fortunately, there are many forms of treatment that can help you get your acne under control. The renowned medical team of skin specialists at the Teeth and Skin Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital are available to provide expert treatment and advice to help you deal with acne and regain your confidence.

What is best for you will depend on your age, the severity of the problem, your overall health medical history and your personal preferences.

Your doctor may prescribe topical medications which will need to be applied to the skin, in the form of a cream, lotion, gel or a form of ointment.

Your doctor may also prescribe systemic medications (taken orally). Depending on the severity of the acne, your doctor may choose from either of these or may even prescribe a combination of both.
However, it is extremely important to know that some of these medications can have unwanted side-effects, and are not suitable for women who are expecting or trying to get pregnant. Therefore, it is very important to consult and seek the advice of a trained professional before starting any course of medication that is to be prescribed.

You can also choose from a number of treatments available to help treat the scars that may develop due to severe acne. Some examples of these dermatological procedures include chemical peels, derma filler injections and laser resurfacing. It is worth noting that if you do not see any immediate positive results of medication, it is because treatment can usually take up to a few months before showing improvement, therefore patience is key in the treatment of acne.  
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.