THURSDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- A new review confirms
something that teens have always known: pimples, low self-esteem
and depression often go hand-in-hand.
While it doesn't prove that blemishes actually cause emotional
problems, the analysis of 16 studies suggests that teenage acne
outbreaks do more than just boost Clearasil sales.
"Acne has a huge impact on people's lives," said review co-author Dr. Steven R. Feldman, a professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "It's something worth treating," he added, and not just because it can lead to permanent scarring.
Feldman said he launched his research at a time when there's a
growing interest in how skin diseases might be linked to other
conditions. People with psoriasis, for example, may have problems
with heart disease, arthritis and mental issues.
Acne, of course, has long been known as a teenage scourge,
although pimples can also affect older people. Feldman and his
colleagues looked for research into the possible effects of acne on
quality of life and mental health in adolescents. They determined
that 16 studies were worthy of inclusion in their review; some of
the studies included both teenagers and older people.
The review was published in the
Dermatology Online Journal.
Overall, it says, the studies suggest that acne "can negatively
affect quality of life, self-esteem and mood in adolescents." Acne
is also linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal
In particular, one study found that 9 percent of teens with acne
showed signs of depression, a rate that is three to four times
higher than in the general population.
The cause-and-effect issue is a tricky one: the studies don't
prove that acne directly causes these problems; it could
conceivably be the other way around.
However, "we're not anticipating that depression causes acne,"
Feldman said, although he thinks stress could exacerbate the skin
The good news is that acne is largely treatable, especially in
severe cases. The drug Accutane (isotretinoin) remains available,
despite its reputation for having serious side effects, including
depression, if not monitored properly. Because of links to birth
defects, the drug is also particularly hazardous for women who or
pregnant or may become pregnant. "For those patients who take it,
it will change their lives," said Dr. Robert S. Kirsner, chief of
dermatology at University of Miami School of Medicine.
Those with less severe cases of acne, or those unwilling to take
the drug, face a tougher battle, Kirsner said. In those cases, "you
don't cure it. You treat it."
There are a variety of acne treatments other than pills,
including injections that reduce inflammation and prescription and
What to do? Review co-author Feldman advised acne sufferers to
"go ahead and see your doctor to get it treated, a primary care
doctor or a dermatologist, before there's scarring or psychological
If you don't have insurance, many dermatologists will offer
lower rates, and drug companies may be able to provide assistance
too, he said.
For more about
acne, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.