- Nearly everyone will have acne at some point in their lives.
- It affects 80% of people aged 11-30.
- Some people suffer with severe acne, and treatments can be unpredictable.
- A new study offers hope for new treatments.
- It suggests some cases of acne could be caused by genes, and the shape of your hair follicles.
Acne can feel like one of the most irritating and debilitating conditions to have, and it affects most people at some point or another in their lives.
Mild acne can be controlled with skin treatments and over the counter medications, but people with severe acne face more of a struggle. According to the NHS website, there is no cure for acne.
But there may be hope, according to a new study from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, is a “world first” in uncovering a new treatment, according to the researchers.
Scientists at the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre examined the DNA of 26,722 people, including 5,602 who had severe acne. They identified 15 genetic regions linked to developing acne, which they believe could lead to new treatments for the condition.
Many of the genes they found affect how hair follicles are formed – which is a previously unknown risk factor of acne. The team believe certain shapes of hair follicles could make pores in skin more open to bacteria, and thus mean the skin is more likely to break out.
“In the last 20-30 years, there have been few advances in the way we treat acne, and the current main treatment has a number of significant side effects,” said Jonathan Barker, a dermatologist and lead author of the study.
“Applying these genetic approaches to acne has never been done before, and it’s a significant leap forward. When you have insight into the genetic basis of a condition, you can develop much more effective treatments.”
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Traditional treatments of acne include creams, medicines known as retinoids, antibiotics, and sometimes the contraceptive pill for women. The most effective current treatment is called isotretinoin, but it can have bad side effects like dry skin, muscle aches, and even birth defects of unborn babies if it’s taken by someone who’s pregnant.
Acne can be caused by a range of factors, including diet, hormones, and now, apparently, genes.
“For people with acne, it’s so important to have more treatments available,” said Barker. “We need to treat people earlier and more effectively, so that they don’t get scars, which last even after the condition has come and gone.”