Relieved: Christina Patterson has been suffering from acne since she was 13
The doctor looked at his notebook and sighed. & # 39; In that waiting room, & # 39; he said, & i have patients with real problems. What exactly do you want me to do? & # 39;
I swallowed, but my mouth was dry. I put my fingers around my chin.
I could not stop touching the deep, red, painful nodules there. Please, I wanted to scream, just let them go.
When I saw that doctor, I felt desperate. It was part of my job to go on stage and present public events, but a few weeks earlier my face had exploded with pounding red bumps that developed into huge yellow pimples.
I stuck my face with foundation, but some pimples burst loose and encouraged new crops of yellow chunks, such as mushrooms that spring up after rain.
I was 34 and had acne, on and off, since I was 13.
I first felt small bumps on my forehead as I began to notice boys. I was prescribed antibiotics and used all kinds of lotions, all of which didn't work, and I even tried to give up chocolate, which made no difference at all.
Acne is as embarrassing and disturbing as a teenager, so the confidence is right when you try to evoke something. But it's even worse if you're an adult.
I worked in a bookstore like a 23-year-old when the scattering of normal spots on my face suddenly burst into a mass of red lumps that seemed to pulsate under my skin. I was referred to a dermatologist who put me on Roaccutane, a medicine that makes the oil glands shrink, causing the pores to become clogged with oil and to become inflamed by bacteria.
Every time I looked in the mirror, I felt sick. Acne was the first thing I thought of & # 39; in the morning, and the last thing I thought of & # 39; thought about it at night while I smeared spreads on my painful, crying skin
It was intended as a panacea and I waited for that miracle to happen to me. Instead, almost every pore on my face seemed to turn into a red lump that turned into a multi-headed pimple. Soon there appeared to be more pimples than normal skin.
Every time I looked in the mirror, I felt sick. Acne was the first thing I thought of & # 39; in the morning, and the last thing I thought of & # 39; thought of it at night while I smeared spreads on my sore, weeping skin.
My doctor referred me to a specialized skin disease hospital, where I was irradiated with ultraviolet light while standing in a metal box like an upright box.
It burned most spots and quite a bit of the skin. My face was much better for about a year, but then the spots came back. I have tried more antibiotics. I tried homeopathy. I tried acupuncture. I have tried Chinese herbs. I saw a nutritionist.
Many people think that acne is a teenage problem that goes by, but it isn't. & # 39; Half of the patients I see are adults & # 39 ;, says professor Tony Chu, a dermatologist and founder of the charity Acne and Rosacea Association UK.
& # 39; I see patients aged 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70. I had a patient who was 85 and tired of hearing that she would grow out. & # 39;
There are, he says, two major causes of acne: hormones and stress. & # 39; If you are under stress, & # 39; he says, & # 39; the adrenal glands are starting to deplete not only adrenaline and cortisol, but also many more male hormones. & # 39;
It is these hormones that cause changes in oil production and blockage in the pores.
A former acne patient himself, Professor Chu knows more than most about the problems it can cause. Many of the patients he sees have received antidepressants. Some are suicidal.
When my acne was the worst, I got pretty close. Sometimes it felt like a too big challenge to walk on the street.
Claire (not her real name), 54, knows what that feels like. We worked together years ago, and both felt great relief when we opened each other to our secret acne history. Hers started the summer when she was fourteen. & # 39; The boys in my class called me Pizza Face or Gangrene & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; Aliens are staring at me. I felt distorted. & # 39;
No wonder she spent most of her adolescence with antidepressants.
Christina Patterson is the author of The Art of Not Falling Apart
Just like me, Claire was busy with antibiotics semi-permanently, which made little difference. Just like me, she didn't dare get rid of them, in case the acne got worse. When she was in her twenties, she wouldn't stay with friends because she didn't want to be seen without her thick mask of makeup.
& # 39; I always wanted to be an actor & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; But my self-esteem was destroyed by acne. & # 39; Claire did not feel better on her skin until she was 40, when she had a baby and her spots largely disappeared.
Duncan, 57, who contacted me after reading my acne in my book The Art Of Not Falling Apart, has also been involved with it for most of his adult life.
& # 39; I drank a lot & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; I now realize that I had self-medication.
& # 39; I wasn't socializing. I was in the house while my friends went to the pub. & # 39;
Duncan wanted to be a ledger. He went for his interview on a hot summer day. & # 39; I had a sweater on top of a shirt because my back was always bleeding, because of the acne & he said.
& # 39; All the boys were only wearing shirts and I thought, "Oh no, I can't comment on this." I ended up working on a job. & # 39;
When he was 28, he was laid on Roaccutane and the acne cleared up. He still sometimes gets breakouts and has severe scars.
Duncan works in mental health and enjoys his work, but regrets the things he has missed. & # 39; There is always that feeling that I didn't do things my friends did, & # 39; he says.
These are familiar stories for Professor Chu. He has spent his professional life trying to help people avoid this kind of pain, but is not a Roaccutane fan.
Under the weather: the health problems deteriorate due to cold weather
This week: You are sensitive to becoming fat.
Thickening in winter is not just about eating comfort food.
We have thousands of different bacteria in the intestines, collectively known as the microbiome.
Each bacterium has a different task and a 2014 study found that the balance shifts during the winter, so we have higher levels of Firmicutes – bacteria that absorb calories.
Why this is happening is unknown, but in the winter, your body wants to get as much energy from food as possible and store it, ”said Dr. Researcher. Emily Davenport from the University of Chicago.
However, we can also contribute to the change by swapping to a firmer diet.
High levels of plant-based foods in the diet create a more diverse microbiome, but if you've eaten three or four servings of fresh produce a day and shrinks in the winter, you can change the composition of your gut bacteria accordingly. , says Dr. Davenport.
& # 39; Fifty percent of patients have a relapse & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; If they relapse after the first course, they relapse after each course. & # 39;
He says he has patients referred to him who have already had 12 courses. And the side effects can be & # 39; terrible & # 39; to be. Not only, he says, the depression and risk of suicide, but & # 39; acne fulminans, where you become acne ballistic, in places you've never had it & # 39 ;.
It is thought that this may be due to the presence of microcomedones, deep-rooted blockages that can blow into large pimples. This is what happened to me when I was prescribed Roaccutane.
What ultimately saved me was a medicine called Androcur. It blocks the effects of androgens – male hormones such as testosterone.
The medicine, which I took as a daily pill, is also used as hormone therapy for transgender patients who undergo a transitional treatment from woman to man.
It gave me a migraine every month, but I was so desperate that I tolerated it and took it for three years. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 39, I had to get rid of it, but the acne never came back.
It's been 40 years since I first got acne. So what, I ask Professor Chu, are the most exciting new treatments?
& # 39; The problem with acne & # 39 ;, he says, & is that it is not a high flyer from a financial point of view. & # 39;
Acne treatments are not considered to be the millions of million investments needed to get a drug off the ground.
There are, he says, more developments in the treatment of acne scars than in the spots themselves. For the scars, he uses an electric automatic needle machine that produces 100,000 tiny pin pricks per minute, some studies have shown that it can increase collagen production by 600%.
& # 39; It's fantastic, but I'd rather not treat acne the scar. I'd rather prevent it, & he says. So tell us all. I wish it didn't take me long to successfully treat my acne, but I am relieved that I now only have my wrinkles to worry about.
- The Art Of Not Falling Apart is now available in paperback (Atlantic, £ 8.99).