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Acne

Acne is a common skin condition in which bumps of various sizes form in the skin. It affects some people severely and others only a little or not at all. Acne is common during the adolescent years and tends to affect boys more than girls.

This condition is common in the teenage years because of hormonal changes that occur as children mature into adults. These changes can cause glands in the skin to secrete (put out) too much oil, which then clogs hair follicles. Bacteria trapped inside the follicles multiply, causing pus to accumulate. These accumulations of pus grow into inflamed bumps called pimples or boils.

Acne pimples can develop into bumps called papules. In some cases they can grow into large inflammations called pustules. Some people may have just a few pimples scattered over the face, chest, shoulders or back. Others may have a more severe condition, with large areas of inflamed bumps. The appearance of these bumps can be distressing and embarrassing, and the inflammations can also leave permanent scars.

It is not clear why acne affects some people more than others. Genetics and diet may be factors. Adults can also have acne. The condition can be cyclic in women, and related to regular hormonal changes.

Treatments can reduce the number and size of acne inflammations, and result in better self-esteem. 

Our physicians have extensive experience with all degrees of acne. Because of our ability to treat this condition successfully, patients who have acne that is difficult to treat often come to IU Health through physician referrals.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Acne Treatment Information

Regular skin cleaning and use of over-the-counter (OTC) formulations of benzoyl peroxide can effectively control some minor cases of acne. This medication dries the skin, reducing the amount of oil that becomes trapped in hair follicles. This reduces bacteria growth and inflammation.

When OTC medications do not work, your IU Health dermatologist can treat you with more powerful medications. A common first step in acne treatment is the use of prescription-strength retinoids. These drugs help decrease oil and decrease the plugging and inflammation of hair follicles associated with acne.

If your acne doesn’t respond well to benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, your physician may treat you with antibiotics. These help kill the bacteria that cause inflammation in plugged follicles. The next step in treatment is isotretinoin, a naturally occurring derivative of vitamin A that is an excellent medicine for controlling particularly severe or resistant acne. This medication dries the skin and reduces or eliminates acne lesions. Your dermatologist will typically prescribe isotretinoin for several months and then stop the treatment. Many times this treatment breaks the cycle of acne development and enables you to control your acne with ordinary cleaning and OTC medications.

Nearly all acne responds to Accutane; however, it can cause side effects, including dry skin, muscle aches and psychological disorders. A dangerous side effect for women is severe birth defects in babies carried while taking Accutane. Because of this side effect, women taking Accutane must commit to using two forms of birth control. 


Acne Locations & Physicians

Use the search options below to find treatments available in your area. 

Find a Specialist

Enter a Zip Code to find a specialist at IU Health.


Acne Support Services

Learn more about acne and how to manage it. These websites provide information to help you talk more effectively with your physician.