Cystic acne is one of the more severe forms of acne. The Mayo Clinic describes the associated lesions as painful, pus-filled lumps. Unlike other forms of acne, cystic acne develops under the surface of the skin. It's an indication that the pores are blocked much deeper than they are in cases of blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. This causes a fairly intense inflammation, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, which forms a nodule that fills with pus. Though this is a severe form of acne, the causes of cystic acne are in line with all other forms of acne.
Regardless of its type, acne is the result of dead skin and excess oil clogging the pores, as the Mayo Clinic defines it. As these two elements accumulate within the pores, they form what is known as a soft plug. The deeper within the pore the plug develops, the more severe the acne. With cystic acne, this plug is rather deep, which causes an excessive amount of inflammation to the hair follicle.
The soft plug prevents oil from secreting out of the affected pore. This causes more oil to accumulate, setting the stage for bacteria. The bacteria linked to acne thrive in this oily environment, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. This then leads to an infection and can worsen the inflammation of the hair follicle, producing a lump beneath the surface of the skin.
While dead skin, excess oil and bacteria are the causes of this skin condition, hormones can also play an indirect role in cystic acne. The American Academy of Dermatology maintains that hormones increase the production of oil from the sebaceous glands found under the surface of the skin. With the increased production of oil, you're more apt to develop acne. This is commonly seen during puberty and adolescence as well as with a woman's menstrual cycles.
Another potential indirect cause of cystic acne is heredity, advises the Mayo Clinic. Some people are simply predisposed to develop the inflammatory skin condition. Part of a person's genetics may cause an excessive production of oil or dead skin, which both play sizeable roles in the development of acne.
Though a fraction of the treatment for cystic acne involves basic skin care, washing with a gentle cleanser and using acne creams can only do so much. They may help to minimize the contributing factors of dead skin and excess oil, but these methods can't effectively break up the plugs blocking the pores. Cortisone shots can lessen inflammation, and thereby prevent scarring. Isotretinoin is also commonly used. This oral prescription is reserved for deep acne cysts, according to the Mayo Clinic, as well as for those that do not respond to other medical treatment.