Acne: Signs and symptoms

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Acne signs

Many people think that acne is just pimples. But a person who has acne can have any of these blemishes:

  • Blackheads.
  • Whiteheads.
  • Papules.
  • Pustules (what many people call pimples).
  • Cysts.
  • Nodules.

Acne appears on the face in all of the photographs above, but it can appear on other areas of the body. Acne can appear on the back, chest, neck, shoulders, upper arms and buttocks.

Acne symptoms

Acne can cause more than blemishes. Studies show that people who have acne can have:

  • Low self-esteem: Many people who have acne say that their acne makes them feel bad about themselves. Because of their acne, they do not want to be with friends. They miss school and work. Grades can slide, and absenteeism can become a problem because of their acne.

  • Depression: Many people who have acne suffer from more than low self-esteem. Acne can lead to a medical condition called depression. The depression can be so bad that people think about what it would be like to commit suicide. Many studies have found that teens who believe that they have “bad” acne were likely to think about committing suicide.

  • Dark spots on the skin: These spots appear when the acne heals. It can take months or years for dark spots to disappear.

  • Scars (permanent): People who get acne cysts and nodules often see scars when the acne clears. You can prevent these scars. Be sure to see a dermatologist for treatment if you get acne early — between 8 and 12 years old. If someone in your family had acne cysts and nodules, you also should see a dermatologist if you get acne. Treating acne before cysts and nodules appear can prevent scars. 

If you still think that acne is no big deal, be sure to visit the AAD’s AcneNet website and read "Acne can change the way you see the world."

Learn more about acne:

Images 1, 3, and 4 used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides

Image 2 used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol 1998;39:S34-7.

Image 5 used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, J Am Acad Dermatol 2001;45:187-95.

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