When talking about acne and the different ways in which it presents itself, people often as “what are pustules?” and want to know the difference between these and their inflammatory acne counterparts – papules. The main difference between the two types of lesions is that a papule has no puss whereas a pustule does. Most pustules derive from a papule that has been picked or irritated. They are most often found on the face, back, shoulders, breastbone, groin and armpit area where sweat is produced. The red based bumps in the skin, with their whitish yellow head is a sign of bacterial infection. To truly see what causes pustules though, the make-up of the skin needs to be explained.
What Are Pustules?
Where hair grows from the skin (everywhere apart from souls of the feet and palms of hands), there is a gland called the sebaceous gland below the surface. The gland produces oil, called sebum which is needed to protect the skin. Adverts for skin products that talk about; “replacing the skins natural oils” are referring to sebum. The sebum travels up through the layers of skin via the follicle which holds the hair in place. The opening where the hair protrudes is often referred to as a pore.
All types of acne including non-inflammatory and inflamed varieties start in the same way. For different reasons, dead skin cells collect in the pores forming a kind of plug at the end of the follicle. The continuation of the production of sebum results in excess amounts of sebum being trapped within the skin. This can turn into whiteheads of blackheads depending on whether the pore is completely covered or not. However if this blockage causes the follicular wall to rupture, bacteria followed by white blood cells trying to combat this will flood into the follicle and inflammation happens. A pustule is created when the growth of bacteria accelerates to an extent where puss is pushed to the top of the raised bump in the skin.
Pustules are without a doubt, the first thing anybody thinks about when the word acne is mentioned. They are commonly known as zits or pimples and generally, on TV commercials, it is this variety of acne lesion which is shown. Many people will pop a zit as soon as they see one. Although this can relieve the immediate problem, it is bound to create further complications for several reasons:
- When squeezing a spot with the fingers, oil and dirt are likely to be transferred from hands to face, adding to existing blockages and possibly aiding more.
- If a lot of pressure is placed around the pustule, it is difficult to control where the bacteria-laden puss goes and there is a high risk that other pores will now be infected.
- If popped in the wrong way, pustules can leave long lasting or even permanent scars.
- Dirt transferred from the nail into the open pore can cause further infection.
In short, it is highly recommended to leave pustules alone and not touch them in any way.
How to Prevent Pustules?
As is often said, the best form of attack is a good defence. Skin care specialists and health care professionals all agree that for healthy skin it is important to try to lead a healthy balanced lifestyle. Intake of lots of water is a great way to flush out unwanted toxins and impurities. A healthy diet might also be good for the skin if eating foods rich in antioxidants and certain acids like citric acid which is renowned to be an effective element used in the breakdown of sebum. Likewise the use of exfoliators containing alpha and beta acids is highly recommended as these remove dead skin cells which become trapped in the pores, unblocking the entrance to the follicle and allowing the sebum to drain as it would naturally. They also promote the growth of new healthier tissue. Many after creams or moisturiser creams find a way to compliment this treatment further by soothing the skin with ingredients such as Aloe Vera, speeding up the healing process.
For some though, over the counter products and herbal remedies are ineffective. When this is the case, many take themselves to see a specialist who may be able to offer different treatments depending on the patient’s history and type of acne. If it is found that all sound advice or the prevention of acne has been followed without any relief from the situation, the doctor may look at the genetics of the patient as acne, or at least some of the elements that cause acne are hereditary.
Hormones can play a large role in the onset of acne. Hydro-testosterone a bi-product of testosterone and a certain enzyme within the body is a stimulant for the sebaceous gland. As testosterone can be found in both genders, and there is a huge increase in production of the hormone at the beginning of puberty, many teenagers suffer from acne. Also, adult women offer suffer a sudden drop in estragon pre-menstruation. As this happens, testosterone levels rise and this can see an outbreak of spots and blemishes that many women complain of before or during their period. There are many hormone balancing tablets and supplements to help with this. Once the correct combination is found, the majority of people are very happy with the results.
There is plenty of help available for sufferers of acne even though there is not one simple answer. A lot of the time success comes through trial and error and as the body changes with age, unfortunately so do the underlying causes of acne for each person. This may mean starting all over again to find a solution or it could mean that as suddenly as the first flare-up happened, the acne could disappear again. There are no real guarantees with acne, just guidelines to help manage the symptoms.