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Pustular Acne

Pustular Acne

Pustular Acne

An acne pustule, or pustular acne lesion, is a type of inflamed acne lesion containing pus, which is a yellowish-white colored substance composed of bacteria, dead skin cells, and debris. If you’re prone to acne breakouts or have experienced acne, you likely developed an acne pustule. An extremely common form of acne lesion, pustules, pimple, zits, and more. Acne pustules tend to be larger and more visible than other acne lesions, which can make dealing with them a distressing process. Our dermatologists in Gainesville, FL, with Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery are committed to helping our patients take charge of their skin’s health and appearance, providing trusted clinical treatments for different skin conditions.

Contact our practice today to book a dermatology appointment and to learn more about our encompassing acne treatments.

What Are Acne Pustules?

Acne pustules are a type of pimple, or acne lesion. These small patches of bulging skin occur when your skin’s pores become clogged with pus, sebum (oil), and skin-cell debris. Commonly referred to as whiteheads, blemishes, and zits, acne pustules can appear virtually anywhere on the face and body, though they are most commonly found on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and back. These pus-filled lesions can occur at any age, though they are especially common among teenagers and young adults undergoing hormonal changes, which often trigger acne breakouts.

Here, our dermatologist discusses the difference between acne pustules and other skin issues, why some individuals may have a higher likelihood of developing them, what medications might be available to you for treating them, and suggestions for how to help prevent breakouts in the future. Contact our dermatology clinic to book an appointment.

What Causes Pustules?

Pustules on face and body skin develop when the walls of an affected pore begin to break down, causing the pore to become a red and swollen skin lesion known as papular acne. As this occurs, white blood cells gather on the papule to try and combat infection as the pore breaks down. These white blood cells form the pus seen inside pustular acne blemishes. The papule results in a pustule filled with sebum, or skin oil, and bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes), and cell debris.

Acne can develop for different reasons, though typical triggers include changes in hormones during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, oil and dirt building up in the skin, and certain types of medications. Acne may also have a genetic component, so family history can play a role. 

What Do Pustules Look Like?

A pustular acne pimple appears different from other types of acne lesions and blemishes. Pustular acne is typically red, inflamed, and has a white head filled with yellow, white, or cream-colored pus that oozes out of the pimple if the pustule becomes broken open or pierced. In some cases, a whitehead pustule can feature a brown-colored dot at its center, which means debris is clogging that specific pore. Acne pustules usually occur near oil glands, particularly around the face, on the back, chest, and shoulders.

These lesions can vary in size from tiny to very large. Contrary to the features of non-inflamed acne lesions, such as blackheads, milia, and microcomedones, pustular acne is a form of inflammatory acne that can be tender to the touch or sensitive. For more information about papules and pustules and to figure out the type of acne you have, please contact us to schedule an appointment. The following comprises some of the common signs of acne pustules.

  • Red, painful, or itchy skin
  • Painful lesions
  • Small blisters on the skin filled with white or yellow pus

How Are Acne Pustules Diagnosed?

In most cases, acne pustules are easily diagnosed based on how the pimples present and appear, whether or not the patient has a personal or family history of acne, and other symptoms, such as lethargy or fever, commonly associated with viruses. The type of acne a patient has is categorized based on the size and spread of the pustules. Your dermatologist may grade your acne as a mild, moderate, or severe case of acne. 

In addition to acne, other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, chickenpox, and insect bites, among other conditions, can likewise cause papules to develop on the skin. A pustule that grows to be incredibly large in size may be a boil, instead of an acne pustule. Your dermatologist can differentiate between acne pustules and pustules caused by another health or skin condition.

How To Treat Pustular Acne

In many cases, pustules can heal on their own if they are left alone. However, due to their unsightly appearance, especially when they develop on facial skin, most patients don’t want to wait for them to clear up and seek an effective pustular acne treatment for their acne and skin’s needs. To get rid of acne at a faster rate, patients often start with over-the-counter acne treatments, though they may require a prescription treatment to effectively treat and heal their acne lesions. 

Topical Treatments

Over-the-counter pimple treatments and prescription-strength topical pimple creams or gels may be used as a spot treatment to be applied on top of individual acne lesions. Other options for topical acne treatment may include cleansers and body washes with active ingredients, such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, adapalene, clindamycin, and erythromycin.

Oral Treatments

In some cases, prescription medications, such as oral antibiotics like tetracycline, erythromycin, minocycline, and doxycycline may be used as a pustular pimple treatment. For acne graded as highly severe, your dermatologist may prescribe you an oral retinoid called isotretinoin. This acne treatment, however, must be used with caution due to its side effects.

Photodynamic Therapy

For severe acne pustules, your dermatologist may recommend photodynamic therapy as a pustule acne treatment, which combines light and special light-activated solutions to help shrink the size of the skin’s oil glands. This treatment can drastically reduce the amount of oil produced within pores.

Should You Pop Acne Pustules?

Pustules develop deep underneath the layers of your skin and can be difficult to extract. Overall, it is best to avoid popping pimples yourself, as this can cause the clogged pore to move deeper within the skin’s layers, creating a more severe issue. Additionally, and especially when performed improperly, pimple popping can cause a significant amount of damage to the skin with the lesion as well as the surrounding skin, possibly leading to scarring, infection, and other permanent, visible skin problems.

Popping acne pustules can also delay the skin’s natural healing process. Due to these potential consequences, our dermatologists advise you seek professional care for your skin’s health. Our dermatology team uses state-of-the-art treatments and trusted techniques to help you get rid of your acne for a clearer, healthier, and more beautiful skin appearance. Contact Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery today!

How To Prevent Acne Pustules

For those who are prone to frequent acne breakouts, there are a number of steps you can take to help prevent blemishes from developing in the future. These steps include the following. 

  • Regularly visit your dermatologist for treatment
  • Keep your skin clean and free from oil
  • Shampoo your hair regularly to remove oil from the hairline
  • Use sunscreens and other skin care products labeled “non-comedogenic,” as instructed by your dermatology specialist or skin care professional
  • Bath or shower after strenuous activity to remove oil and sweat that can result in the formation of acne blemishes
  • Keep your skin moisturized and well-hydrated
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fiber, vitamins, proteins, and minerals

Contact Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery today to schedule an appointment for acne and pimple treatments.