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NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Acne most commonly develops on:

  • the face: affecting 99% of all people with the condition,
  • the back: affecting 60% of all cases, and
  • the chest: affecting 15% of all cases.

Types of spots

Acne causes skin lesions that are commonly referred to as spots. A lesion is the medical term for damaged tissue.

There are six main types of spot caused by acne. These are described below.

  • Blackheads: small black or yellowish bumps that develop on the skin.
  • Whiteheads: have a similar appearance to blackheads but they can be firmer and have a white centre.
  • Papules: small red bumps that may feel tender or sore.
  • Pustules: similar to papules but they have a white tip in the centre that is caused by a build-up of pus.
  • Nodules: large hard lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin and are usually painful.
  • Cysts: the most serious type of spot caused by acne. They are large, pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils. Cysts carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring.

When to seek medical advice

For some people, even mild cases of acne can cause distress. Therefore, if your acne is making you feel very unhappy, you should visit your GP.

Also see your GP if you develop nodules or cysts, because these are usually associated with severe acne. If necessary, your GP can then refer you to a dermatologist (an expert in treating skin conditions).


view information about Acne on www.nhs.co.uk »

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