Medical Conditions That Cause Acne in Adults

Acne is common in teenagers but, in some cases, it could persist well into adulthood. Acne vulgaris has been known to afflict men and women in their 30s, 40s and yes, even the 50s. What is interesting is the fact that many of these sufferers have never had acne in their teenage years. Like in teenagers, adult acne can go through different stages like the formation of whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, cysts and pimples or zits on the neck and jaw line. Let us take a look at different medical conditions that cause acne in adults.

Hormonal imbalance

Many women undergo a lot of hormonal upheaval as they go through pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. Some women tend to breakout excessively post delivery or in their second and third trimester of pregnancy when the sebaceous glands go into an overdrive. This is also the time they lose a lot of hair, gain weight and their body undergoes many different changes. It is important to have these issues checked out by the Ob-Gyn. Starting or stopping contraceptives can also lead to adult acne. Menopause related changes in the levels of estrogen, progesterone and other hormones can sometimes give rise to acne.


Many medicines are known to cause adult acne. Thus, the medical condition itself might not be responsible for the acne; rather the drugs taken to counter that condition could be responsible. For example, as stated above, certain contraceptive pills keep the hormones in check and starting or stopping them suddenly could lead to severe cystic acne on the neck, cheeks, chin and forehead. Medicines containing Iodine, Steroids etc are also responsible for acne. “Steroidal acne” increases the levels of corticosteroids in the blood and cause breakouts all across the face, neck and back. Epilepsy medication taken to keep seizures at bay can also cause severe acne on the face, neck and back. Anti anxiety and anti depressant medicines can sometimes lead to acne.

Circulatory issues

Blood circulatory problems are often seen in smokers and they are a common cause of acne. The nicotine in cigarettes contains carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide which tend to damage the lungs and heart and disrupt normal circulation. Healthy blood is necessary to keep away the impurities and fights skin blemishes.


Polycystic ovarian syndrome afflicts thousands of women in their 30s and 40s. It is caused by poor insulin levels and high estrogen levels. In overweight women with PCOS, the acne is even worse and can cause severe breakouts on the chin, around the mouth and cheeks etc. PCOS acne treatment includes prolonged use of antibiotics, dietary changes and use of progesterone or hormone therapy.

Acne conglobata

This is a common medical condition afflicting people in the 30s. It is characterized by severe acne on chest, arms, face and upper back, thighs etc. The acne lesions often burst open and appear as interconnected lumps. The cysts may ulcerate and lead to large scale scarring. In some cases, the acne might appear to reduce only to form new cysts. This condition can be highly damaging to one’s self esteem.

Acne fulminans

This adult acne is typically seen in men. It is characterized by cystic acne and excess scarring and usually occurs in men who take testosterone. The condition may be accompanied by aching joints and fever.

Pyoderma faciale

This type of acne is seen in women between 20-40 years. It is accompanied by painful nodules and front neck and jaw-line acne. Although the acne disappears within a year, it could lead to permanent and extensive scarring.

Gram negative folliculitis

This is a medical condition that causes acne in adult men and women and is termed so because of the type of bacteria causing it. It is characterized by severe pustules and cysts along the neck and jaw. The infection also spreads and covers a large area of the skin. The treatment for this type of acne is long term use of antibiotics.


As can be seen, there are many medical conditions that could cause severe acne. It is very important to prevent scarring and long term damage to the skin; so you need to know the right treatment to use based on the type of adult acne you are suffering from.

Got acne? Here are 10 products that can help you get rid of it.