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Acne vs. Heat Bumps

By Julie Webb Kelley ; Updated July 18, 2017

Skin lesions can be emotionally uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, requiring attention. Knowing how to identify the difference between acne and heat bumps, also known as heat rash, can be important to help you determine what treatment to pursue or if you should consult a dermatologist.

Acne Causes

Acne can be triggered stress, hormonal fluctuations, medications or hair and skin care products, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Acne occurs when dead skin cells mix with excess oil from the sebaceous glands and clog pores. Bacteria aggravate the situation, causing inflammation and redness.

Heat Bump Causes

Heat bumps are caused when sweat ducts become blocked, trapping sweat under the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is common in infants, but can also occur in adults when the weather is excessively hot and humid.

Acne Appearance

Acne shows as whiteheads and blackheads, often accompanied with papules, pustules, cysts or nodules, according to DrGreene.com, a website offering medical information for families. Redness, inflammation, scarring and skin discoloration often occur with acne. Acne can occur anywhere on the body, including the face, back or chest.

Heat Bump Appearance

Heat rash can appear as superficial blisters or be as troublesome as deep, red bumps. Heat bumps are often itchy and can cause a prickly feeling, according to the Mayo Clinic. Heat rash tends to happen on areas where clothing rubs against the skin or within the folds of skin in areas such as elbow creases, armpits or the groin area.

Acne Treatment

Treatment for acne is usually medication-based. According to American Family Physician, typical medications used for acne are topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics or topical retinoids. Keeping the skin clean, well exfoliated and oil-free are keys to controlling acne.

Heat Bump Treatment

The Mayo Clinic notes that heat rash will usually clear up on its own. Keeping the area dry and clean is important for healing. If the lesions become excessively painful, with warmth, redness or swelling around the area, you should consult a physician. In addition, if the lesions are draining pus, if you have a fever or chills or swelling in the lymph nodes of the armpit, neck or groin, see your doctor immediately.

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