Psychological Burden of Truncal Acne

Linda F. Stein Gold, MD


June 23, 2020

Truncal acne is estimated to affect more than 40% of US adolescents and follows many of them into adulthood. Although truncal acne has the same pathophysiology as facial acne, it occurs on the shoulders, chest, and back, making it easier to hide. Research shows that patients are reluctant to raise the issue of truncal acne in clinical encounters, so many cases go undiagnosed and untreated as a result.

Nonetheless, truncal acne confers a psychological burden that is often underappreciated. Leading dermatologist Dr Linda Stein Gold explains that patients with truncal acne can experience emotional distress and social stigma in addition to physical pain and bleeding from inflammatory lesions caused by the condition. Truncal acne can negatively affect a patient's participation in sports or social activities, decisions about clothing and appearance, and overall sense of confidence, all of which are central to adolescent development.

FDA approvals of a fourth-generation topical retinoid and a once-daily oral antibiotic have provided physicians with new tools to treat these patients. The first step in therapy, however, is for clinicians to raise the topic of truncal acne with their adolescent patients.


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