ZocdocAnswersWhat is the white pus that comes out of whiteheads?

Question

What is the white pus that comes out of whiteheads?

What is the white pus that comes out of whiteheads? I'm a younger woman and I'm dealing with whiteheads on and off. The pus thing is just strange because the only other time I've seen that happen on my body is when I have a serious infection. Are whiteheads infections? If so, shouldn't we treat them with antibiotics?

Answer

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, but there is often confusion about what causes it. The doctors who would be qualified to discuss this with you in greater detail include your primary care doctor or your dermatologist. Whiteheads are a form of acne that occurs when pores of the skin becomes clogged and closed off. Subsequently, the pore's oil secretions build up behind the blockage. Bacteria that live in this pore begin to feed off the secretions and, occasionally, the pore becomes inflamed and does attract in some immune cells which create pus. Therefore, the basic answer to your question is that the white liquid is a mixture of oils, bacteria, and sometimes pus. Although technically therefore an 'infection' of the pore, the best and simplest treatment is usually just to remove the plug of dead skin that is blocking the pore, which allows the infection to drain out. Most acne treatments do just this. Occasionally, however, in more severe cases of acne, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics just as you suggest! As always, the diagnosis and the management of you specific skin condition will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Scheduling an office visit with your primary care doctor or with your dermatologist is recommended.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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