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Acne Treatment Overview

How does Acne Develop?

Acne is a disease of the sebaceous hair follicles. At the base of each hair follicle are glands called sebaceous glands, which make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance, and under normal circumstances it travels along the hair follicle to the surface of the skin. In acne, the normal transport of sebum out of the follicle is impeded. This leads to an accumulation of sebum, which provides an enriched breeding ground for bacteria.

What can Cause Acne?

Factors that contribute to acne include heredity, oily skin, hormonal imbalance, monthly menstrual cycles, and candidiasis. Other possible contributing factors are allergies, stress, and the use of certain drugs such as steroids, lithium, oral contraceptives, and some anti-epileptic drugs. Nutritional deficiencies and/or diets high in saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, and animal products can also be involved.

What are the Current Treatments for Acne?

Some of the common treatments for acne include topical ointments, antibiotics, accutane, corticosteroids, birth control pills, acne surgery, cortisone injections, dermabrasion (skin peeling), freezing, & ultraviolet light. The following are the most common:

Topical applications (ie.salicylic acid & benzoyl peroxide) are used for minor acne and are designed to dry the skin and to cause some degree of mild peeling, which loosen the plugs in oil glands. These agents can be quite irritating to the skin. Some studies have shown benzoyl peroxide to promote the development of benign skin tumors & skin cancers in mice.

Oral antibiotics temporarily kill the bacteria (which eventually become resistant to the antibiotic). Side effects include irritation of the digestive system, yeast infections, sensitivity to light, and they may also decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills.

Accutane is used for severe cystic acne, and works by suppressing sebum production by as much as 90%. Potential side effects include numerous complications and warnings. But of paramount concern is the causing of fetal malformations. Women must not take accutane if they are or may become pregnant during treatment!

Corticosteroids reduce inflammation & decrease the activity of the immune system.

Side effects include severe allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, fainting, tightness in the throat, swelling of face & eyes), serious infections in the form of high fever or painful urination, bleeding in the digestive system, high blood pressure, slow wound healing, difficulty sleeping, and more.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

The term "Chinese medicine" makes reference to a number of practices including acupuncture, prescription of herbal formulas, and nutritional recommendations. It especially emphasizes changing lifestyle habits. Its theoretical basis has been developed in China over the past 3,000 years.

The goal of TCM is to restore balance to the body and to treat the root cause of an illness, thereby "curing" the disease. This approach gives TCM a special advantage over certain western medicine therapies that focus on merely providing symptomatic relief.

How does TCM view Acne?

TCM views acne as an external manifestation resulting from an internal imbalance. Excess heat and toxin are the primary components which produce this acne causing imbalance. The general approach chosen for therapy is to reduce internal heat by cooling the blood, decreasing toxin, and removing stasis. The medicinals are also meant to alleviate dampness and improve intestinal function where toxins can accumulate.

   
   

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