Glossary : A guide to Acne

A glossary of medical terms used in this acne guide.

A

Acne

A skin condition caused by an over production of oil (sebum) from the sebaceous glands. This production is regulated by the male hormone testosterone but increases this amount during puberty.

This appears as a series of pimples, sores and spots. Non-inflammatory types include blackheads and whiteheads: inflamed acne consists of lesions, nodules and cysts.

Acne vulgaris

The medical term for acne: also known as ‘common acne’.

Acne rosacea

A type of skin condition that looks similar to acne vulgaris. It is characterised by a flushed skin, small red sores and visible blood vessels on the skin. It also effects the eyes as well causing itchiness, burning and sensitivity to light.

Antibiotic

A type of medicine which is prescribed to treat bacterial infections, e.g. acne.

B

Bacteria

The name given to a group of single cell micro-organisms which can cause a range of infectious diseases.

Blackhead

A type of acne spot which has a wide opening and a black top ā€“hence the name. This tends to be non-inflammatory.

C

Collagen

A group of proteins within the skin which give it strength and flexibility.

Comedone

A small bump on the skin which has a rough texture. These are usually white, black or flesh-coloured and are described as open or closed comedones.

Blackheads are ‘open comedones’ whilst whiteheads are ‘closed comedones’.

D

Dermatology

The branch of medicine which deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all skin conditions which includes acne.

Dermatologist

A specialist in skin diseases.

Dermis

The medical term for the middle layer of the skin. This layer contains the sebaceous glands and collagen.

E

Epidermis

The medical term for the top layer of the skin. This is where acne develops, often due to excess oil and dead skin cells.

F

Follicle

See hair follicle.

G

Glands

See sebaceous glands.

H

Hair follicles

A sac-like structure within the dermis of the skin which contains the hair root and shaft. It is lubricated by sebum produced by the sebaceous glands which are attached to the follicle.

Hormone

A chemical produced by the body which controls a range of processes, e.g. body temperature.

I

Infection

An invasion or spread of bacterial micro-organisms within the body.

Inflammation

The body’s reaction to an accident, injury or infection. This reaction takes the form of redness, swelling, heat and pain.

J

None at present.

K

Keratin

A strong protein which is the main component of hair, skin and nails.

L

None at present.

M

Melanin

A pigment which gives hair, skin and the iris their colour. The more melanin someone has the darker their skin. People with higher levels of melanin tend to tan more easily than those with lesser amounts.

N

Nodule

A small bump on the skin.

O

None at present.

P

Papules

Small, oval-shaped or rounded bumps on the skin.

Pimples

A group of small bumps or papules. They are often small and inflamed.

Propionibacterium acnes

Known as ‘P acnes’: this bacteria lives on the skin and only becomes acne when it comes into contact with sebum and dead skin cells. It is the main cause of acne.

Pustules

Small, pus filled sores which develop on the skin. A feature of moderate and severe forms of acne.

Q

None at present.

R

Retinoid

A naturally occurring or synthetic derivative of Vitamin A. Used as a cream for treating acne, this substance is rubbed into the skin with the aim of helping dead skin cells to shed.

Roaccutane

Known as Accutane: it is the brand name of isotretinoin which is a retinoid designed to treat severe acne. It is available in tablet form or as a cream.

S

Sebaceous glands

Small glands which are attached to the hair follicle. These glands secrete sebum which flows into the hair follicle to help nourish it.

Sebum

The oily substance contained within the sebaceous glands. It is made from wax, fat and cell debris. This is a major cause of acne.

T

Tetracycline

A group of antibiotics which are prescribed to treat a range of bacterial infections such as urethritis and acne.

Topical

A medical term used to describe a form of treatment which is applied to the skin.

U

None at present.

V

None at present.

W

Whitehead

A small, white coloured bump on the skin which is a feature of non-inflammatory acne. Categorised as mild acne.

X

None at present.

Y

None at present.

Z

None at present.

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