Adolescent Acne

Adolescent acne is the most common clinical type of acne and the cause of the overwhelming majority of cases of teenage acne. There is a subtle, but important, distinction to be drawn between adolescent acne and teenage acne.

Adolescent Acne v. Teenage Acne

Adolescent acne is one of the clinical types of acne. To reach a diagnosis of adolescent acne requires that a clinical examination of both the patient and his/her spots is carried out. The term ‘teenage acne’ is broader in its meaning, since any clinical type of acne developing in a teenager can correctly be described as ‘teenage acne’. It is understandable that people treat the two terms as being interchangeable, since the majority of cases of adolescent acne occur in teenagers and the majority of cases of teenage acne are of the adolescent clinical type. However, any discussion of the causes or treatment of acne must focus on the clinical types of acne, e.g. adolescent acne or infantile acne, rather than the age distribution types, e.g. baby acne or teen acne.

Cause of Adolescent Acne

It is implicit in a diagnosis of adolescent acne that the cause of the acne is hormonal. In most cases of adolescent acne, it is the hormonal changes associated with the normal onset of puberty which cause acne to develop. Adolescent acne in teenagers is caused by hormonal changes associated with normal puberty The reason that adolescent acne is most prevalent in the teenage years is simply that the teens are the period during which puberty most commonly occurs. However, the cause of the adolescent clinical type of acne, seborrhoea, resulting from hormonal stimulation of the sebaceous glands, is the same in all cases of adolescent acne regardless of whether the condition develops in a baby, child, teenager or adult. The acne information section of the site includes a detailed explanation of how seborrhoea interacts with other factors in the development of acne and the formation of spots.

Diagnosis of Adolescent Acne

Most cases of adolescent acne are self-diagnosed by the patient and are never seen or formally diagnosed by a doctor. It is reasonable for someone who develops acne-type spots and is either approaching the normal age of puberty, or has already reached puberty, to assume that they are suffering from adolescent type acne. This will not be the correct diagnosis in all cases, as a few cases will be caused by acne of another clinical types and fewer still will be caused by other 'spotty' skin diseases which superficially appear to be like acne. Indications that a self-diagnosis of adolescent acne might be incorrect include:

Cases of adolescent type acne which occur in children below the normal age of puberty require specialist investigation, as there is likely to be an underlying endocrine disorder or tumour which is causing the acne, and which may also be causing precocious puberty. The normal age of puberty has dropped over recent generations and also varies considerably between different races and cultures, but the occurrence of adolescent type acne before the age of eight or nine always warrants a medical consultation, whether or not there are accompanying signs of puberty, such as growth of pubic hair or development of the sexual organs.

Treatment of Adolescent Acne

The need to treat acne in teenagers and the choice of acne treatments are discussed fully in the acne treatments section of the site.