Acne is a common condition that causes pimples, cysts and other lesions to develop on the skin of the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Acne is caused by clogged sebaceous glands, which can lead to blocked pores. Acne develops on the skin when the pores become clogged, as a result of an overproduction of oil. When oil builds up in the hair follicle it forms a soft plug that forces the follicle wall to bulge and protrude from the skin, causing a lesion to develop.
Acne can cause inflammation and swelling which is due in part to bacteria that builds up within the clogged sebaceous glands. Comedone pimples, commonly known as blackheads or whiteheads, occur when hair follicles become clogged with oil and produce small bumps on the skin. They most often appear on the forehead, chin and nose, which is where oil glands on the face are located. In some cases, cysts may form and become swollen and painful and the build-up of bacteria may cause an infection.
If cystic acne is painful and bothersome to patients, a dermatologist may perform a procedure called "drainage and extraction" to remove a large acne cyst. This procedure may also be performed when the cyst has not responded to oral or topical medication. Draining and extracting the cyst also helps to relieve pain and reduces the chance that the cyst will leave a scar.
The Acne Extraction Procedure
The dermatologist performs the extraction using a special metal instrument that presses down firmly on the targeted area of the skin to gently unclog the plug and remove any oil, bacteria or debris from the lesion. For certain types of blemishes, a sterile needle may be used to break the skin before removing any debris or buildup from the area. Extractions may also be performed with steaming techniques, which help to open the pores of the skin and minimizes the trauma to the skin. After the extraction procedure, some patients may experience temporary redness or swelling which can be relieved by applying cold compresses to the skin.
Patients should not attempt to drain cysts or extract comedones themselves by squeezing or picking at them, as this may lead to infection, worsening of the acne, and scarring.