Symptoms and Signs of Cystic Acne

Doctor's Notes on Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne (acne vulgaris), in which the acne forms deep, tender inflammatory, fluid-filled cysts within the skin that often leave scars when healed. Cystic acne most commonly affects the face, but it can also involve the chest and back. Cystic acne is difficult to control and treat, and topical medications or nonprescription medications often do not work to control the condition. Systemic (oral) medication is frequently used to control cystic acne and to minimize scarring.

Symptoms of cystic acne include large, red, tender, elevated soft bumps on the face, chest, and/or back. Bumps may have one or more pustules within them and the lesions are often tender and painful. After healing, the area may be permanently scarred or a defect in the skin may appear.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.