Don’t Give Up on Stubborn Acne

Acne vulgaris affects 40-50 million people in the United States. Acne affects patients of all skin types and a wide age range from teens to ladies in their 50’s. The psychological impact of acne is underestimated. It is now publicized that part of Michael Jackson’s body image problem may have stemmed from having severe acne as a teenager and having to endure embarrassing scars as he faced thousands of people.

Everyday in our dermatology clinic we hear stories of how acne prevents people from fully enjoying life with confidence. Acne can be devastating as we are left with discolored scars which can be embarrassing especially on adults. They may feel like acne and scars make them look less attractive, less professional and hence, less confident to perform or be taken seriously in their line of work.

Ance scars before PDT treatment.

Ance scars before PDT treatment.


With teens, I believe it is imperative to seek treatment as early as possible because I have seen depression and social withdrawal from having bad acne. These are patients who come to see us for consultation barely looking up, having hair covering part of their faces, wearing unnaturally thick make-up. My message for these patients is always one of hope as treatment for acne has advanced dramatically over the last few years. There really is no more reason to have acne or acne scars!

In our clinic we combine the latest in medical treatment (oral antibiotics, topical treatments) with the most advanced technology to get patients better as soon as possible to prevent scarring. We recommend Photodynamic Therapy(PDT) for patients with more inflammatory and cystic acne. In a study done by Serrano, et al., it was shown that treatment with ALA-PDT showed 50% reduction in the number of lesions (counts) after the first treatment session, 75% after the second session and 92% after the third session. There were no relapses at the end of the 16 week follow-up period.

Acne scars faded after PDT treatment.

Acne scars faded after PDT treatment.

A series of PDT treatments done monthly can save patients from having to require Accutane treatment. Most of the patients we see seeking PDT series already have been failed by traditional medical treatment and have been advised they will need Accutane. Many parents of teens hesitate to have their children undergo such a potent systemic medication with known complications and are wondering what else can be done. PDT’s can also offer relief for adult women with stubborn acne who hesitate to take Acutane since they are not sure how long they can put off reproduction.

Although PDT is not 100% effective, the majority of our patients do improve significantly to a point where they can be acne free for many months and at the least, the quality and severity of the acne lesions are now more acceptable, manageable and patients feel better about their skin overall. Once we have the active acne under control we can start discussing options for acne scar treatment. At this point, these once shy, withdrawn patients have a new confidence and spirit! Let us know how we can help you. We welcome your comments below.

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About Dr. Tess M.D., F.A.A.D.

My mission is to use my extensive training, expertise, and artistic sense to promote self esteem, build confidence, and improve my patients' quality of life.

Posted on August 7, 2009, in Scripps Ranch Dermatology & Cosmetic Center, Treatment for Acne and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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