"Sometimes, it takes a few minutes, but pretty much, you can set them straight," he says. Bujanauskas is a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and a dermatologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, both in Philadelphia.
Although 49% of study patients believed that acne was curable, nearly half expected treatment to take less than six months, and 31% expected treatment to take less than four weeks.
"We clearly have some work to do in terms of providing patients with realistic information in this area," Tan says.
Indeed, Arthur M. Coddington, MD, medical director of the Tier Acne Clinics in upstate New York, tells WebMD, "We have a similar experience on this side of the border. Patients are often surprised when I tell them not to come back for two months after the first visit, since it will take that long to be able to evaluate their progress. Many are also very disappointed to learn that we cannot cure acne, we can only control it."
Despite the fact that this study was done in Canada, where medical care is accessible and universally available without direct cost to the patient, Tan was surprised to find that 75% of patients had waited more than one year before seeking medical attention for their acne.
Coddington says the same applies to U.S. patients. "Many patients procrastinate for an amazing length of time before seeking treatment," he tells WebMD. "Access to care seems to be less a contributing factor than the idea that if they just wait a little longer, they will get over it."
"We need to get out the message that delaying acne treatment can have deleterious effects in terms of scarring," Tan says.
Bujanauskas has had similar experiences. "Most often, too much time has elapsed between the time patients start having problems and when they come in to the dermatologist," he says. So by the time they seek treatment, their acne may have progressed beyond the early stages and has developed redness and inflammation.
Another advantage of seeking treatment early in the game is a financial one. According to Bujanauskas, insurance companies are often more willing to pay for a teen's acne treatment than an adult's. But if the adult has a history of going to the dermatologist for acne care during his or her teen years, it may be less of a struggle to get the coverage, he says.