Over-the-Counter Drugs - Acne medicine

Acne is an inflammatory disease of the oil glands of the skin. Both superficial (surface) acne and deep acne are caused by a combination of bacteria, hormones, and inherited tendencies.

Over-the-Counter Drugs: Words to Know

A generic name for a compound that affects the brain and spinal cord, altering the perception of pain and lessening it.
A chronic condition in which an allergic reaction occurs when the immune system responds aggressively to a certain foreign substance.
A drug that alleviates pain without affecting consciousness.
A medication used to neutralize up to 99 percent of stomach acid.
Drugs used to treat bacterial infections.
The drugs most commonly used to treat allergies.
Chemical that counteracts inflammation.
A substance that prevents the growth of germs and bacteria.
A type of cough medication that calms the part of the brain that controls the coughing reflex.
A branch of herbal medicine that uses medicinal properties found in the essential oils of certain plants.
Inflammation of the joints. The condition causes pain and swelling.
Something that tightens the skin.
An organic compound that has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, heart, blood vessels, and kidneys.
Substance that produces cancer.
Clinical trial:
A study that evaluates how well a new drug works, positive effects, negative side effects, and how it is best used.
A hormone from the steroid family that originates in the adrenal cortex and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
A compound that relieves a stuffy nose by limiting the production of mucus and reducing the swelling in the mucous membrane by constricting the blood vessels in the nose, opening the airways and promoting drainage.
An increase in the frequency, volume, or wateriness of bowel movements.
A plant (also known as purple coneflower) that herbalists believe bolsters the immune system and treats certain ailments.
Hormones that the brain produces that stop the sensation of pain from being transmitted from cell to cell.
A type of plant (also known as Ma Huang) used to treat ailments, including bronchial problems, and as a decongestant.
A type of cough medication that helps clear the lungs and chest of phlegm.
An herb used to treat migraines.
Ginkgo biloba:
A tree (the oldest living kind of tree, in fact) whose leaves are believed to have medicinal value, particularly in aiding memory and treating dizziness, headaches, and even anxiety.
An herb used as a kind of cure-all, with benefits to the immune system and aiding the body in coping with stress. Some also believe it aids concentration.
A vision of something that is not actually there; can occur because of nervous system disorders or in response to drugs.
A form of varicose veins that occurs when the veins around the anus become swollen or irritated.
The generic name for a type of analgesic that works in the same manner as aspirin but can be used in instances when aspirin cannot.
Occurring naturally in an environment.
Abnormal inability to get adequate sleep.
Hormone used to metabolize carbohydrates.
When two drugs influence the effects of each other.
Drugs that alleviate constipation, the inability to have a bowel movement.
Process by which substances are handled by the body.
A substance that transmits nerve impulses.
An organic compound in tobacco leaves that has addictive properties.
Nonproductive cough:
A dry and hacking cough.
Occurring naturally.
A disease whereby, over time, bones mass (and therefore bone strength) is decreased.
Rapid, irregular heartbeat.
A cure-all.
Phenylpropanolamine (PPA):
A chemical that disrupts the hunger signals being sent by the brain; it is often used in weight loss aids.
Sticky mucus present in the nose, throat, and lungs.
Productive cough:
A cough that brings up phlegm.
A hormone-like substance that affects blood vessels and the functions of blood platelets, and sensitizes nerve endings to pain.
Rapid-Eye movement (REM) sleep:
A deep stage of sleep during which time people dream.
St. John's Wort:
An herb used as an anti-inflammatory drug, to treat depression, and as an analgesic.
Side effect:
A secondary (and usually negative) reaction to a drug.
Substance that produces temporary increase in ability.
Designed for application on the body.
Poisonous substances.
Passes quickly into and out of existence.
A drug that constricts the blood vessels to affect the blood pressure.
Yeast infection:
A common infection of a woman's vagina caused by overgrowth of the yeast Candida Albicans.

During puberty, an increase in hormones causes oil glands on the face, neck, back, and chest to become stimulated. The glands produce large amounts of sebum, a fatty substance. Sebum normally flows out of the skin along the hair follicles. However, too much sebum, combined with skin debris, can form a plug in the hair follicle called a blackhead. Once the hair follicle becomes plugged, bacteria grow in it. This bacterial infection is called acne. In severe cases of deep acne, inflamed cysts may form; sometimes these cysts can cause permanent scars.

Acne can also occur in people who aren't experiencing puberty. Certain drugs, industrial chemicals, oily cosmetics, or hot, humid conditions can also cause it. Some people believe that stress can cause or worsen adult acne.

Acne is usually treated with OTC topical (applied on the body) drugs such as sulfur or benzoyl peroxide, which can be found in products such as Clearasil and Stridex medicated pads. Unfortunately, these ingredients can dry the skin too much. In particular, the FDA is currently studying the effects of benzoyl peroxide on skin that is exposed to the sun. Because the effects are unknown at this time, it is advisable to avoid unnecessary sun exposure and use sunscreen if treating acne with benzoyl peroxide.

Another type of topical drug commonly used is keratolytic skin ointment. The ingredients in these ointments peel off the dead and hardened skin cells that form the skin surface and contribute to the sebum plug. This can cause soreness or redness, especially during the first few uses. Some OTC topical acne drugs also contain antibiotics to prevent or treat infection. Antibacterial soaps can be somewhat helpful, although they may cause irritation.

Mild cases of acne do not necessarily need to be treated with drugs. Regular washing and moderate exposure to sunlight will usually control the acne.

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