By Denise Mann Health Day Journalist
MONDAY August 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Acne isn’t just superficial.
That’s the general message of a new study that looked at the mental and psychological toll acne can take on adult women.
“Some felt their acne made them look less professional or less skilled at work, and many described having fewer peers with acne as adults amplified the impact acne had on their mental health,” resulting in a sense of social isolation, ”said study author Dr. John Barbieri, dermatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
For the study, researchers asked 50 women with acne how they felt about their acne and its treatment, and the comments were revealing.
“Concerns about appearance, mental and emotional health consequences, and disruptions to their personal and professional lives were mentioned frequently,” said Barbieri, who conducted the study at the University of Pennsylvania.
When asked how acne affects her job, one woman replied, “I don’t feel like I’m taken so seriously. [or] professionally in my career because I have acne. “
Another woman described the effect of acne on her mental health this way: “Sometimes I would go there all day. I didn’t even look at myself in the mirror. Another noted that acne “keeps me from leaving my house. It keeps me from receiving my mail without makeup.”
These are not trivial concerns. “Acne should not be viewed as a cosmetic problem, given these significant impacts on life,” said Barbieri.
The study found that many women were frustrated with the treatments available and struggled to find a dermatologist they trusted.
Safe and effective acne treatments are available, Barbieri said. These include topical retinoids, topical or oral antibiotics, and spironolactone, which slow the production of hormones that can lead to pore clogging and rashes.
And “for the right patient, isotretinoin is a very effective acne treatment that can lead to lasting remission,” he said. Isotretinoin, formerly known as Accutane, now prescribed under the names Amnestimate, Claravis, Myorisan, Absorica and Zenatane, has its share of side effects, including a risk of serious birth defects, dry skin, eyes and from the mouth. Liver problems and depression are also of concern.
The research is “an important contribution to the field,” wrote Dr. Diane Thiboutot, vice president of research in the Department of Dermatology at Pennsylvania State University, and colleagues in an editorial accompanying the new study. “It also captures meaningful information about the patient’s perspective on treatment success and treatment side effects, which inform treatment choice.”
Two dermatologists unrelated to the study said the results reflect what they see in their practices.
“Adult acne patients will tell you that they feel like they are viewed differently by their friends and especially by their colleagues,” said Dr Hilary Baldwin, medical director of the Acne Treatment and Research Center in Morristown, NJ. “They often talk about calling sick at work when they are having a particularly bad day.”
And unlike acne in teens, acne in adults can last for decades. “Most teens will be over their illness within a few years, but adult women with acne typically have their disease persisting into their fifties,” Baldwin said.
Dr. Angela Lamb is the Practice Director at Westside Mount Sinai School of Dermatology and Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. She knows the often devastating emotional and psychological effects acne can have on adults.
“A lot of women feel very conquered by their acne,” Lamb said. “They’ve tried what they consider to be everything and they still don’t have the skin they want. They don’t like to feel like teenagers or not feel confident giving presentations at work or on the job. Zoom.”
But don’t give up, Lamb urged. Current drugs can bring people closer to a cure.
“The problem can be finding a doctor who is willing to be creative and, in most cases, more aggressive as well as to balance the side effects,” she said. “Sometimes it’s really about persistence and trial and error.”
SOURCES: John Barbieri, MD, MBA, dermatologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; Hilary Baldwin, MD, medical director, Acne Research and Treatment Center, Morristown, NJ; Angela Lamb, MD, director, Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice, and associate professor, dermatology, Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai, New York City; JAMA Dermatology, July 28, 2021, online
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