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Inflammatory lesions in acne

Author: Reviewed and updated by Dr Amanda Oakley Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, and Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, February 2014.

Table of contents

What are inflammatory lesions in acne?

Inflammatory lesions in acne include small red bumps (papules), pustules, large red bumps (nodules) and pseudocysts (these are fluctuant nodules). Inflammatory acne lesions are often painful.

Inflammatory acne

More images of acne ...

What is the cause of an inflamed acne lesion?

An inflamed lesion usually follows rupture of the wall of a closed comedo. It may also arise from normal-appearing skin.

Inflammation follows immune activation in and around the pilosebaceous unit (hair follicle and oil gland). Factors contributing to inflammation include:

  • Free fatty acids and sebum, which penetrate the dermis after the duct has ruptured and must be removed
  • Chemicals produced by acne bacteria such as Cutibacterium acnes, which diffuse into the surrounding skin (dermis)
  • Proinflammatory mediators (IL-1a, IL-b, TNF) produced by the cells lining the sebaceous ducts, ie the innate immune system
  • Debris within the follicles, which may induce a more severe granulomatous inflammatory reaction via macrophages and giant cells
  • Hypersensitivity or excessive immune reaction to P. acnes, the presumptive cause of the most severe form of acne, acne fulminans.



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