- Cystic Acne Quick Overview
- What Is Cystic Acne?
- What Causes Cystic Acne?
- What Are Cystic Acne Risk Factors?
- What Symptoms and Signs Are Associated With Cystic Acne?
- How Is Cystic Acne Diagnosed?
- What Is the Treatment for Cystic Acne?
- What Are Cystic Acne Home Remedies?
- Is It Possible to Prevent Cystic Acne?
- What Is the Prognosis for Cystic Acne?
- Cystic Acne Topic Guide
Cystic Acne Quick Overview
What Is Cystic Acne?
Cystic acne is the most severe form of common acne (acne vulgaris). Those afflicted have a predisposition for their acne to form deep, tender inflammatory fluid-filled cysts that tend to heal with scarring.
What Causes Cystic Acne?
The cause of cystic acne is no different than typical acne. At the time of puberty, hormonal changes occur that result in inflammation involving the sebaceous glands of the face, chest, and back.
What Are Cystic Acne Risk Factors?
There is probably a significant hereditary component that predisposes one to cystic acne. A family history of severe acne with scarring signals this predisposition.
What Symptoms and Signs Are Associated With Cystic Acne?
The major symptoms and signs of cystic acne include red tender, elevated soft bumps on the face, chest, and/or back. Some of these may be surmounted by one or more pustules. Generally, such lesions are tender and painful.
What Is the Treatment for Cystic Acne?
Almost all patients with this severe form of acne will require some form of systemic (oral) medication to control this condition. The goal of therapy is to minimize scarring. The choice of drug with which to begin treatment depends on the experience and preferences of the physician and patient. It is often warranted to try oral antibiotics initially (doxycycline [Doryx, Oracea, Monodox], sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim [Bactrim, Sulfatrim], minocycline [Minocin]) for a limited period of time supplemented by a topical retinoid drug (Retin A, Differin, Tazerotene). Antibiotics probably owe much of their effectiveness to their anti-inflammatory characteristics rather than their antibacterial attributes.
If this option is not successful, then the patient is started on isotretinoin (Claravis, Amnesteem, Absorica, Myorisan, Zenatane). Patients may benefit from a lower dosage initially, followed by an increase to the standard 1 mg/kg dose after about a month. Patients should remain on this dosage for at least six months to maintain a durable improvement. Rarely, a short course of oral steroids (prednisone) may be necessary to suppress the inflammation during the initiation of therapy.
Patients who are treated with isotretinoin will need to be enrolled in the iPLEDGE (http://www.ipledgeprogram.com) program as will the physician prescriber and the pharmacy provider. This requires monthly visits and laboratory work. Females of childbearing potential must be on some form of birth control and have negative pregnancy tests during the course of therapy because isotretinoin can damage exposed fetuses. There are a variety of other potential side effects produced by the drug. Isotretinoin, however, when used in appropriate patients, is a unique drug in that it offers a safe and effective "cure" for a noninfectious disease.
Singular, individual cysts can develop in association with moderate acne. These isolated cysts often respond to injections of a steroid suspension (Kenalog) directly into the cysts.
What Are Cystic Acne Home Remedies?
There are no home remedies that are likely to have any effect on cystic acne. It is unwise to postpone treatment waiting for some nonprescription medication to produce improvement while scarring becomes worse.
Is It Possible to Prevent Cystic Acne?
There is little that can be done to prevent the development of this severe form of the disease. It is important, as it is in any form of acne, to avoid manipulation of the lesion by the patient.
Newman, Marissa D., Whitney P. Bowe, Carol Heughebaert, and Alan R. Shalita. "Therapeutic Considerations for Severe Nodular Acne." Am J Clin Dermatol 12.1 (2011): 7-14.