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This Skin Disease Like Acne May Be a Sign of Mental Illness Risk

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Teems with acne often are depressed study finds

A new study reports that a common skin disease could be warning sign of an increased risk of mental illness that could affect you and your family.


Some think of it as a rite of passage that comes with puberty. But to those who are going through it, acne can become a physically marring skin disease that researchers recently reported may be associated with mental illness.

Acne affects about 80 percent of teenagers, with about one in five teens developing moderate to severe acne that often leads to lifelong scarring.

Acne is the result of sebaceous oils clogging pores in the skin and thereby trapping bacteria beneath the skin's surface. Soon after, bacterial growth commences resulting in characteristic skin inflammation and the buildup of white pus and/or blackheads. Dependent not only upon hygiene, but genetics as well, teens experience a wide range of degree and severity of acne that often requires treatment ranging from simple OTC ointments to prescription meds from a dermatologist.

The most common OTC chemical found to be relatively effective in combatting acne is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is an organic compound in the peroxide family and is used not only in acne treatment, but also for treating flour, bleaching hair and teeth. As a result of the benzoyl peroxide's skin-healing abilities, several brands of anti-acne medications, creams, washes and lotions contain varying amounts of benzoyl peroxide.

Another acne zapping chemical is salicylic acid--the same active component of aspirin--that research has shown is beneficial in combination with benzoyl peroxide found in some over the counter acne treatments.

Celebrity doctor shares 15-minute acne fix

While the physical scarring takes its toll on the skin of a teen, the psychological scarring that comes with acne may be more serious than most believe. According to a recent study that analyzed one of the largest electronic medical records databases in the world, researchers reportedly found that patients with acne had a significantly increased risk of developing major depression that lasts about 5 years after being first diagnosed with acne.

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The researchers found that the risk for major depression was highest within the first year of acne diagnosis--a 63% higher risk compared with individuals without acne.

The researchers concluded that their study's results indicate that it is critical that physicians monitor mood symptoms in patients with acne and initiate prompt treatment for depression or seek consultation from a psychiatrist when needed.

According to a press release from Wiley publications:

"This study highlights an important link between skin disease and mental illness. Given the risk of depression was highest in the period right after the first time a patient presented to a physician for acne concerns, it shows just how impactful our skin can be towards our overall mental health" said lead author Dr. Isabelle Vallerand, of the University of Calgary, in Canada. "For these patients with acne, it is more than a skin blemish-it can impose significant mental health concerns and should be taken seriously.

For more about mental illness, here is a recent article on Why Grapes May Play a Role in Defeating Depression.


Wiley newsroom Wednesday, February 7, 2018 "Acne Linked with Increased Risk of Depression"

British Journal of Dermatology, 2018; "Risk of depression among patients with acne in the U.K.: a population-based cohort study" I.A. Vallerand, et al.

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