The Ups and Downs of Cystic Acne

Most people get pimples at one point or another of their lives, usually during their teenage years. But many people get cystic acne, the severe form of acne characterized by large, red and painful pimples lodged deep into the skin.  


Fortunately, these severe breakouts can be treated with a combination of medications and lifestyle habits. But that doesn’t mean to say that it will never come back because cystic acne has a bad habit of lingering for years.  Here’s what you need to know about it when discussing your treatment plan.  

The Downside: Ill Effects

Pimples usually happen when the pores of your skin becomes clogged with dirt, dust and dead skin cells. But there are times when bacteria also become trapped inside the pores resulting in infection and, if it goes deep into the skin, in cystic acne.  

This isn’t your usual pimples because these are full of pus, as well as painful, itchy and tender. You may be tempted to prick them in an effort to drain the pus but you’re making matters worse. Your skin will soon have breakouts until it seems like acne has taken over your face.  

But it isn’t just the face where cystic acne can occur. Many people can even have them on their neck, back and chest, even on their shoulders and upper arms. Just imagine the physical and psychological effects of cystic acne no matter their number and location.  

If you have it, you may suffer from decreased self-confidence because cystic acne can leave physical and mental scars.

The Upside: Treatment and Prevention

There’s hope but you have to work with your dermatologist to find a customized solution. Acne, especially cystic acne, is such a highly individual disease that no two individuals will respond to the same treatment.


The medications will also likely be stronger for cystic acne than for mild to moderate acne. Your doctor may prescribe the following:  

  • Oral antibiotics aid in reducing the inflammation and controlling bacteria. Caution must be exercised, however, as acne may not respond well to antibiotics after a few years of use.  
  • Prescription topical solutions, such as creams, gels, or lotions, with retinoid work in two ways: aid in unplugging the pores and in reinforcing the effects of antibiotics.  
  • Isotretinoin, of which Accutane is the most popular brand, aids in clearing the skin of acne completely and permanently in most people. But it should be taken for five months on a regular basis, usually once to twice a day, and it shouldn’t be taken by women planning on getting pregnant while taking it.  

Even the strongest anti-acne medications will be of little use if you don’t adopt your doctor’s recommended lifestyle habits. These include avoiding touching your cysts, managing your stress, and following a healthy lifestyle, as well as taking good care of your skin.  

Most important, be sure to follow your therapy plan. There’s no quick, one-size-fits-all, and easy fix for cystic acne so line up your expectations, too.  

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