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Mild Acne Linked To Depression, Suicide In Young People

ALEXANDRIA, VA -- Sept. 3, 1998 -- Citing a new study which shows that even mild acne can be associated with such emotional problems as significant clinical depression and even suicide, a psychiatrist who studies the psychological effects of skin problems is encouraging parents to seek medical treatment for their teenagers who have acne.

"We found that the cosmetic impact of even mild acne can cause a profound emotional burden for some young people," said Madhulika Gupta, MD, professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Western Ontario in London, ON.

The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the British Journal of Dermatology.

Using a standard 52-item rating scale for depression, Dr. Gupta and colleagues examined the prevalence of depression among 480 dermatology patients with four different skin disorders, including acne. They found that the prevalence of depression and suicidal thinking among patients with mild to moderate acne was similar to that among patients suffering from moderately severe psoriasis, a far more chronic and cosmetically disfiguring condition.

"This suggests that the effect of a skin disorder on body image should be assessed in the context of the patient's life and development stage, as teenagers and young adults with acne may have greater difficulty adjusting to the cosmetic problems imposed by the skin disorder in contrast to older individuals with more chronic and disfiguring problems," Dr. Gupta said.

Dr. Gupta's new research, as well as studies that date back as early as 1948, shows that acne can affect all dimensions of a person's psychosocial well-being. According to Dr. Gupta, the effects may be expressed in a number of ways, including low self-esteem and self-confidence, negative body image, anger, embarrassment leading to social withdrawal and lifestyle limitations.

Dr. Gupta suggests that seeking rapid correction of an acne problem may be critically important for some people. Rather than treating the problem with over-the-counter medications and taking a wait and see approach, an evaluation by a healthcare professional can help determine the best treatment method from all of the options available, including prescription medications.

Acne is a disease that affects approximately 17 million people in the United States and nearly 80 percent of the population will develop some form of acne during their lifetime. While the condition is most prevalent among teenagers, acne affects people of all ages, from infants to the elderly. It develops when the hair follicles become clogged by skin cells that block the opening of pores.

If the blocked pore is not visible, it forms a whitehead. If the pore is open and visible, it forms a blackhead. Red, inflamed papules and pustules are formed when acne bacteria break through the whitehead or blackhead. The most common form of acne (acne vulgaris) is a constellation of whiteheads, blackheads, papules and pustules. Acne occurs most often on the face, but it can also develop on the back, chest, shoulders and neck.

Thanks to The Doctor's Guide to the Internet™ for the article


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