Acne: A Review of Diagnosis and Treatment – Differential Diagnosis

6 Mar
2010

Differential Diagnosis

The differential diagnosis of acne includes gram-negative fol-liculitis, perioral dermatitis, sebaceous hyperplasia, syringoma, tuberous sclerosis (adenoma sebaceum), trichoepithelioma, Demodex folliculitis, bacterial folliculitis, and papular sarcoido-sis. The diseases that most closely resemble acne, but are said to be distinguishable from it, include:

  • gram-negative folliculitis: occurs after months of therapy with tetracycline (e.g., Sumycin, Par); responds only to sulfa antibiotics, such as sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Bactrim, Women First); and is the type from which gram-negative pathogens can be obtained for culture
  • rosacea: classically defined as a facial eruption lacking comedones
  • perioral dermatitis: thought to be a variation of rosacea
  • acneiform drug eruptions: most commonly associated with epidermal growth factor blockers but related, at a lower incidence, to lithium and phenytoin (Pfizer)
  • eosinophilic pustular folliculitis: most closely associated with HIV infection in the U.S. but not uncommon in the Japanese population

Acne can occur in tandem with other eruptions and can result in scarring that lasts beyond its resolution. It can overlap with acne rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis. It can also be concurrent with gram-negative folliculitis; the latter may be manifested following months of therapy with antibiotics (typically tetracyclines). Acne can leave behind hypertropic scars, pitted (“icepick”) scars, sinus tracts, keloids, and atrophic scars.

In men of color, pseudofolliculitis is a common sequela of acne in the beard area. In old age, people who had acne in earlier life and experienced actinic damage can manifest Favre-Racouchot syndrome. The relationship of the syndrome to acne is unclear.

Biofilm and Enzymatic Tools of P. acnes

To understand the mechanisms, utility, and basis of the cornerstones of topical therapy—retinoids and benzoyl drug—it is important to comprehend the organism P. acnes.

P. acnes resides within the pilosebaceous unit in a biofilm. An important factor in the persistence and effect of P. acnes is its ability to form such a biofilm, including the production of an exopolymer that is similar in appearance to the polysaccha-ride intercellular adhesin of S. epidermidis. This glycocalyx polymer forms a protective exoskeleton and may be an important immunogenic agent that feeds the inflammation that sometimes is associated with acne. This biofilm functions as a physical barrier that prevents the elevation of concentrations of antimicrobial agents proximate to the bacteria sufficient to hinder the bacteria. The role of biofilm probably explains the parameters of successful treatment of acne, including:

  • the need for prolonged courses of oral antibiotics.
  • the lack of consistent clinical relevance of the presence of P. acnes resistant to antibiotics to treatment with oral antibiotics.
  • isotretinoin canadian capacity to cure acne.
  • the mechanisms that underlie the effectiveness, including its generation of free radicals, when it is placed on the skin.

P. acnes possesses other means of engendering acne. The organism can produce active enzymes and inflammatory mediators that can contribute to acne’s progression, including smooth-muscle contracting substances, lipases, proteases, hyaluronate lyase, and phosphatase. Lipases can convert triglycerides in sebum to free fatty acids; this increases the clumping of P. acnes in the follicles, thereby facilitating an increase in the number of bacteria.

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