Causes of Cystic Acne

Getting to the root of stubborn cysts and nodules

The causes of cystic acne are difficult to determine and you will find a wide range of opinions on this type of acne.

Cystic or nodular acne is not only resistant to most treatments, but is psychologically damaging to an individual.

I remember clearly when I was 15 years old and I had just returned from my vacation in Singapore to Canada. As soon as I came home, my skin started to explode with bumps that turned into cysts.

It was almost as if the change from extremely hot to extremely cold weather had triggered something in my skin. Who knows? My parents immediately sent me to my family doctor who prescribed me antibiotics.

They didn’t work. And not once did my doctor even discuss the possible causes of cystic acne.

I had developed acne long before the age of 15, but these types of cysts could not be hidden. Anyway, to make a long story short, I continued throughout the next decade seeing doctors, herbalists, and other skin experts. But eventually I did find a treatment that gave me my life back.

What I’m trying to say from personal experience, is that so often the causes of cystic acne are misunderstood and misdiagnosed. There is a lot of trial and error, pain and suffering, until a treatment or remedy is found. Until then, many people with this severe acne likely do suffer psychological damage and low self-esteem.

Unfortunately, the stress created by worrying about your skin may contribute to cystic acne.

Stress triggers the production of androgens (hormones created by the adrenal glands) which in turn increases the production of oil in the skin.

If you want to get a physiological understanding of the causes of cystic acne, read on.

When a follicle breaks and the body is not able to repair it quickly, the spot sometimes turns into a big red bump. This is because oil, bacteria, pieces of hair, and excess skin cells take advantage of the opportunity to spill into the follicle and surrounding area. Your body reacts by sending in its squad of neutrophils to fight the invasion. By doing so, they release enzymes that break the follicle wall even more and affect surrounding areas of tissue.

The location of where this takes place in the skin determines if you’ll get a cyst.

If you’re lucky, and all the action takes place near the surface of the skin, you’ll get pustules, or those white or yellow zits with a head that are ready to leak out and let your skin heal.

If you’re not lucky, the action will take place deep below the surface of the skin, involving more ruptures of follicle walls. Then you’ll get a cyst…or two or more. Because the rupture is deep in the skin, it damages a lot of surrounding tissue. It can takes months to surface and more months to heal.

One of the recurring causes of cystic acne is that sometimes this collection of oil, hair bits, and bacteria don’t all surface.

Some of the stuff will eventually leak out of a nodule or head, but not all of it may leave. If this happens and some bacteria or cells are left behind, the process will repeat itself. This is why you can get cysts in the same spot or always within the same area.

Some other causes that are being looked at are diet and exercise. Although the notion of food as a culprit for causing acne has been rejected in general by western practitioners, times are changing and some research is emerging that shows people may have sensitivities to foods that may be related to breakouts.

Some practitioners, like Nicholas Perricone of The Perricone Prescription, agree that some foods provoke inflammation. Refined sugars and starches are widely agreed upon by many as possibly being causes of cystic acne and other forms of acne.

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