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Acne Vulgaris

Acne Vulgaris

A common skin condition affecting hair follicles and sebaceous glands; lesions (spots) occur mainly on forehead, nose, chin, upper chest and back. Characterised by blackheads or comedones (dilated pores with black plug of keratin); whiteheads (small, cream-coloured, domed papules); red papules; pustules; sometimes cysts. Inflammation occurs when Proprionbacterium acnes bacteria colonise blocked pores. Severity is classified as follows:

  • Mild: mostly blackheads and whiteheads, usually on face only.
  • Moderate: above plus papules and pustules that may extend to shoulders and back.
  • Severe: above plus nodules and cysts; spread may be extensive.


Acne is induced by androgens, which may explain its prevalence in the teenage years. Can occur up to the 5th decade of life and may severely affect quality of life.  Acne is also a characteristic sign in polycystic ovary syndrome.

To access up to date information on signs, symptoms and management guidance click on the links below:

Key links:

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence:  NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries – Acne vulgaris.!scenarioRecommendation

NHS Conditions:

NHS Conditions Scotland:

Additional resources: