Acne is a common and usually treatable condition that we see in our surgery regularly. Understandably it is a huge cause of distress for some patients and it is always worth talking to your GP about it if you suffer with acne-there are lots of treatment options out there.


Unfortunately, it is a condition that some people find difficult to talk to us about and they sometimes feel too embarrassed to bring it up. The earlier we treat acne the better, and if you have had acne in the past maintaining treatment once it clears up is important too.

Who gets acne?

  • Acne is slightly commoner in boys
  • It affects about 80% of all people at some stage in their lives
  • It is commonest in those aged 12-25
  • If untreated, it may take many years to settle down

Myths about acne…..

Acne is not caused by poor skin hygiene or bad diet. It is not caused by stress and you cannot ‘catch’ acne from another person. There is no evidence that the sun or sunbeds helps to cure acne.

‘Mild’ acne

This occurs when pores in the skin get blocked and develop into blackheads & whiteheads. If whitish stuff called ‘sebum’ collects underneath blackheads then they can develop into whiteheads.

For most people their acne does not get more severe than this.


‘Moderate’ & ‘Severe’ acne

The sebum in spots mentioned above provides a medium for bacteria to grow and thrive. Sometimes these spots can grow angry and large.

Other rarer causes of acne include polycystic ovarian syndrome and exposure to certain chemicals.


There are a number of treatments on the market and it is best to sit down and discuss these with one of the team members here to see what is best for you.

  • Topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide help to kill bacteria, reduce inflammation of the skin and unblock your pores.
  • Others, such as retinoids help to unblock pores and reduce inflammation but can have side effects so need to be discussed in depth before they are started by your GP.
  • Antibiotics are useful at reducing inflammation and killing the bacteria that cause spots.
  • Often we will prescribe a mixture of topical treatments in combination depending on what best suits our patient.

  • Antibiotic tablets can be useful too in certain patient subgroups but must be monitored carefully and may not be suitable for some patients (e.g. those breastfeeding or who may be pregnant)
  • They are often combined with topical treatments to get best results, or if initial treatments are failing.

  • The combined pill contains oestrogen that can help reduce the severity of acne that is often worse around the time of your period.
  • Isotretinoin tablets are extremely effective but are only prescribed by consultant dermatologists. They need to be monitored regularly with blood testing and, in some cases, pregnancy testing as they can harm a developing fetus. Therefore you will need to get a GP referral to see a specialist for this, and specialists will generally not see you until you have tried treatments prescribed by your GP first (unless circumstances are exceptional).

How long should treatment last for?

Generally at least six months though this varies from patient to patient. A big mistake made by patients is that they stop treatment early on as they feel the treatment isn’t working. It is important that if you feel any medicines prescribed for acne are ineffective that you let us know. There are lots of options out there for the treatment of acne and it can be challenging to discover the best one for a patient immediately so patience is often necessary.


If you would like to get treatment for acne or feel that you need advice in relation to treating your acne then please contact us to see one of the team on 01-8461335 or 01-8038881. Alternatively you can e-mail us on 

This post was by Dr Niall