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If you're a teenager, you probably expect that you'll get acne -- and you'll almost certainly be right, since about 85 percent of all teens experience pimples each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 1. But if you're older, especially if you're in your 30s or 40s, an acne breakout probably seems unfair. However, several medical conditions can lead to acne.
Doctors consider acne in teenagers to be normal, according to the Cleveland Clinic 2. As a teen's hormones start to ramp up in anticipation of puberty, those hormones prompt maturing of the glands beneath the skin that produce oil. Once mature, those glands start to pump out oil. In many cases, the glands actually produce too much oil for awhile, which results in clogged pores and acne in most teenagers. Acne can come and go or persist throughout the teen years.
- Doctors consider acne in teenagers to be normal, according to the Cleveland Clinic 2.
- In many cases, the glands actually produce too much oil for awhile, which results in clogged pores and acne in most teenagers.
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Pimples aren't just limited to teens. Acne affects up to 25 percent of men and 50 percent of women in their adult years, according to Acne.org 3. If you're a woman who has suddenly developed pimples, you probably can blame your hormones. Adult women frequently get acne when their hormones shift during pregnancy, during peri-menopause and right before their periods 3.
In some cases, a sudden bad case of acne might signal a more serious condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome or diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include acne, facial hair growth and irregular or absent periods. Meanwhile, skin problems such as acne sometimes represent the first sign of developing diabetes. If you have any risk factors for these conditions, you should see your doctor.
- In some cases, a sudden bad case of acne might signal a more serious condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome or diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
- Meanwhile, skin problems such as acne sometimes represent the first sign of developing diabetes.
Acne & Levonorgestrel
Although hormones do seem to play a role in teen and adult acne, most people who suffer from pimples don't have a hormonal imbalance, according to MayoClinic.com 34. Therefore, you should beware of "natural" hormone treatments purporting to balance your hormones and cure your acne, since there's little or no data to support their effectiveness.
Acne can represent a distressing problem at any age, but it can be even more distressing when your face suddenly breaks out in acne without warning. Resolving a persistent case of teen or adult acne may take some experimentation, and could require a visit to your dermatologist 3. You may need to try several different approaches or products before you see real results.
- Acne can represent a distressing problem at any age, but it can be even more distressing when your face suddenly breaks out in acne without warning.
- Resolving a persistent case of teen or adult acne may take some experimentation, and could require a visit to your dermatologist 3.
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- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Management of Acne
- Cleveland Clinic: Acne
- Acne.org: Adult Acne
- MayoClinic.com: Adult Acne -- Is it Caused by a Hormonal Imbalance?
- Rocha MA, Bagatin E. Adult-onset acne: prevalence, impact, and management challenges. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018;11:59-69. doi:10.2147/CCID.S137794.
- Legro RS, Arslanian SA, Ehrmann DA, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(12):4565-92. doi:10.1210/jc.2013-2350.
- Buddenkotte J, Steinhoff M. Recent advances in understanding and managing rosacea. F1000Res. 2018;7. doi:10.12688/f1000research.16537.1.
- Tan AU, Schlosser BJ, Paller AS. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2018;4(2):56-71. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2017.10.006.
- Canavan TN, Chen E, Elewski BE. Optimizing non-antibiotic treatments for patients with acne: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2016;6(4):555-578. doi:10.1007/s13555-016-0138-1.
- Ramos-e-Silva M, Ramos-e-Silva S, Carneiro S. "Acne in Women." The British Journal of Dermatology. 2015 Jul;172 Suppl 1:20-6.
J.M. Andrews has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years. She specializes in health and medical content for consumers and health professionals. Andrews' background in medicine and science has earned her credits in a wide range of online and print publications, including "Young Physicians" magazine.