Cystic acne is the most painful form of acne vulgaris, characterized by large cysts and nodules on and under the skin that can become broken, infected and bleed out. Cysts take a longer time to heal than more superficial acne lesions and whiteheads, and the healing is further complicated by squeezing pus out, which causes more significant damage to the skin and exacerbates infection. This form of acne is most common in young men and requires constant care and treatment to recover.
Cystic Acne Causes
Cystic acne has a number of factors that contribute to its severity. Genetics play a huge role in determining who is affected by cystic acne, and who is not. In addition, the severity of acne depends upon your nutritional status, immune health and age. Cystic acne develops primarily during hormonal changes during teenagehood, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology acne can occur in anyone at any time. Stress does not trigger cystic acne directly, but you may find this condition does increase stress, anxiety, depression and anti-social behavior. Look at your life, diet and health as a whole to determine what contributing factors lead to the development of cystic acne, and explore a wide range of treatment options available to you.
Cystic Acne Treatment #1: Topical Treatments
Cystic acne requires potent topical treatments in order to have a noticeable therapeutic effect. Prescribed products such as corticosteroid creams and topical antibiotics may be necessary, but over-the-counter products such as benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and retinol may also have a beneficial effect on your cysts. Reducing inflammation and preventing infection is absolutely necessary in cystic acne, as this will reduce pain and improve the time it takes to heal. Keep your skin clean and dry, and avoid using make-up or heavy oil-based skin products until your cysts have been resolved.
Isotretinoin is a prescription medication that is available to patients who suffer from severe cases of acne, such as cystic acne, and to those whom other treatments fail or cause side effects. Isotretinoin is an effective drug which can help to balance your sebum oil production in the skin, reduce inflammation and kill bacteria that cause acne. However, the use of this drug is limited because of its side effects. From taking it, you may experience nausea, vomiting, joint pain, chest pain, headaches, hair thinning and skin dryness. Side effects do not occur in everyone, but if you do experience any of these, you should contact your doctor or dermatologist that prescribed isotretinoin immediately. For many the benefits of the drug outweigh the side effects however, and isotretinoin works for many acne patients when nothing else will.
Cystic Acne Treatment #3: Corticosteroid injections
Acne cysts that break or rupture can cause severe infection, bleeding, pain and scarring. In order to prevent this, doctors can inject diluted amounts of corticosteroid drugs directly into the cysts to take down inflammation. This is an acute treatment that has to be performed for several days in a row on an individual cyst, and is not an answer to the overall condition. Corticosteroid injections can however provide relief and prevent complications with individual large cysts such as pain, infection and scarring. If your cystic acne is not responding to other treatments, or an acne cyst is causing significant distress, consult with your doctor or dermatologist about receiving corticosteroid injections.
Cystic Acne Treatment #4: Surgery
Dermatologists can perform minor surgery on severe acne cysts that do not respond to any other forms of treatments or medications. The dermatologist will lance or cut into the cyst and drain the contents safely using local anaesthetic, sterilized tools, and will prescribe antibiotic treatment to follow up. While surgery is a costly and stressful option, it is evidently a safer route for you to take than attempting to drain cysts at home. The risk of infection and scarring is significantly reduced, and you are being looked after by a trained professional
Cystic Acne Treatment #5: Alternative Medicine
Alternative and complementary therapies such as herbal medicine, nutrition, naturopathy, ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine can offer a range of acne treatments that vary in success, but have significantly fewer side effects compared to orthodox medications. One of the benefits of the alternative medicine route is that practitioners usually look at your life as a whole, and seek to determine the underlying causes of cystic acne, rather than just treating symptoms. Herbal medicines like Echinacea, Aloe Vera, Comfrey and Calendula can help to treat cystic acne, reduce inflammation and stimulate wound healing. Oral zinc reduces acne-related inflammation and stimulates tissue recovery. Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Rosehip oil and the herb Gotu Kola have shown in studies to help prevent scarring and promote skin health. Consult with registered alternative medicine practitioners, and let your doctor and dermatologist know about any other products or vitamins you are taking.