Comedones, Cysts, Nodules, Papules, and Other Symptoms

Acne is a common experience, but acne pimples and lesions don’t always look the same. Depending on its cause and location, symptoms can appear as small, black dots, or they can look like a large, interconnected swath of deep-set nodules. All acne symptoms respond differently to different types of treatment, so understanding what type of acne you have is important.

While typically recognizable, acne lesions will have different symptoms. The type of lesion you’ve developed will inform the treatment it needs, as well as how large, painful, or widespread the acne becomes. Most lesions can appear nearly anywhere, but some are more versatile than others. Whether you’re experiencing teenage or adult acne, acne on the face or acne on the back, recognizing the acne symptoms you are experiencing is the first step toward finding a treatment that works. If you’re unsure what type of acne you have, visiting a dermatologist is a great way to understand your condition.


What is an Acne Lesion?

A lesion is an acne symptom. The word is used as a catch-all term to describe the bumps that characterize most acne conditions. The term “lesion” can be used to describe papules, pustules, nodules, cysts, and comedones. Acne lesions can appear anywhere on the body, but the most common sites include the face, chest, shoulders, and back.


Pimples and Other Common Acne Symptoms

Patients and dermatologists use a range of terms to describe acne symptoms. Below, we’ve defined some of the more common lesion types.

  • Pimples: “Pimple” is a catch-all term for various types of lesions. In the simplest terms, a pimple is an inflamed area of skin generally filled with pus. Pimples are typically the result of acne vulgaris, or hormonal acne caused by the overproduction of sebum.
  • Comedones: Comedones are among the most common types of acne lesions. These form when the hair follicle becomes clogged with oil and debris, which leads to acne vulgaris. Comedones typically appear as blackheads and whiteheads, both common forms of acne. In whiteheads, the pore remains closed, keeping the inflammation inside the skin, whereas blackheads stretch the pore open, allowing the sebum to oxidize and turn black. These acne symptoms are often easily treated with over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
  • Papule: A papule is an inflamed lesion. These pimples are often red and can be both sensitive and painful to the touch. Papules are often confused with acne rosacea, an acne-like condition characterized by red, inflamed bumps.
  • Pustule: These inflamed lesions differ from papules because they are typically filled with pus. This creates a yellow or off-white color. Those experiencing pustules may be tempted to pop these lesions, but this can lead to acne scarring, further inflammation, and possible infection.
  • Cysts: This is a severe acne symptom that becomes deeply inflamed and filled with pus. Cysts feel softer to the touch than nodules, but they are generally very painful. If you suspect you have cystic acne lesions, you’ll need the help of a dermatologist to find an appropriate treatment.
  • Nodules: Another severe type of acne lesion, nodules develop under the skin and are not typically filled with pus. As a result, they can feel hard to the touch, and they may not be as painful as acne cysts. Nodules are also often larger than most other lesions, generally measuring between 1 and 2 centimeters wide. As with acne cysts, nodules require medical treatment.

When to See a Doctor for Acne Pimples and Lesions

Most of the acne symptoms listed above will respond well to over-the-counter treatment. With enough time, they can resolve entirely. However, some of the more serious types, like cysts and nodules, will need professional acne symptom treatment. Lesions that do not respond to other forms of treatment may also need a professional’s help, either through prescription and medical-grade skin care products or acne extraction.

If you’re struggling to clear your face, shoulders, back, or other body part of acne symptoms, schedule an appointment at any of our Minnesota offices. We can assess your skin, diagnose your acne, and provide a treatment strategy designed to clear the breakouts. If you’re unsure if the bumps on your body are acne, that’s all the more reason to pay us a visit. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.