Rosacea is a common disorder of the skin that affects 16 million Americans. It cannot be cured, and the goal of treatment is symptom management.
Rosacea causes the skin on the face to develop enlarged capillaries, swelling, and possibly bumps called papules. Rosacea can also affect the scalp, ears, neck, chest, and back. On occasion, rosacea may also affect the eyes. Patients with rosacea have a tendency to flush or blush easily. Since rosacea causes facial swelling and redness, it is easily confused with other skin conditions such as acne, skin allergies, and sunburn.
Rosacea often affects adults with fair skin between the ages of 20 and 60 years. It is more common in women, but often most severe in men. The cause of rosacea is unknown, but it may be the result of both genetic and environmental factors.
While rosacea may not usually impact the physical health of a patient, there may be psychological consequences from the most visually apparent symptoms, which can affect the quality of life.
Even though rosacea cannot be cured, treatment can be effective. The most thorough treatment plans often include a tiered approach. Patients are often instructed on various self-care measures such as avoiding skin irritants and dietary items thought to cause flare-ups. There are also several different types of medicines that can be prescribed by a knowledgeable primary care physician or a dermatologist.
More recently, several different procedures have been developed that have improved the treatment of rosacea. Two of the more successful procedures involve the use of laser or intense pulsed light, and some forms of rosacea may be significantly cleared for long periods of time. Although it is still not considered a “cure”, some patients experience continuing results and may have remissions for months to years.*
TREATMENT: Today, laser or light therapy is used to treat these signs of rosacea:*
- Enlarged blood vessels
- Persistent redness
- Thickening skin on the nose and cheeks (also known as rhinophyma)
- Acne-like breakouts
GENERAL TREATMENT EXPECTATIONS
Some patients may not be ideal candidates: Do you have a suntan or any of the following medical conditions?
- Clotting disorder
- Tendency to develop keloids
- History of abnormal response to sunlight
- Medication that is light sensitive
- Infectious disease
- Connective tissue disease
- Patients that are immunocompromised
- Prescription Accutane
- Medical condition that affects wound healing
- Patients with tan skin with certain treatments
- History of skin cancer
Anyone with sun exposure for the past three weeks can receive laser treatments, but should not receive light treatments. If you have any of the conditions listed above, be sure to tell your doctor because these conditions may increase your risk of developing an infection or may create problems with wound healing. Of note, laser and light treatments are not recommended during pregnancy as the effects are unknown. Not a cure: While some patients experience dramatic results which can be long-lasting, neither laser nor light therapy can be guaranteed. To maintain results, additional laser or light treatment may be needed at a later time.*
Realistic expectations are essential: Most patients do see improvement; however, with any medical procedure, there is always the possibility that you will only see a minor change or not see a response at all. Your physician can determine if you are a good candidate. To date, doctors have found that people with lighter skin who limit their sun exposure after the procedure tend to have better results.*
Success depends on several factors: Several factors — including your skin type, condition of your skin, your lifestyle, and the amount of sun exposure you get following the procedure — affect the short-term and long-term results. For example, not protecting your skin from the sun after treatment can cause a strong reaction.*
Complications: Scarring or blistering, although rare, can occur following any treatment. Hives may occur and generally subside within a few hours. Patches of dark skin or light skin are rare but may develop after treatment. Swelling and bruising may be a temporary result following any treatment.*
Not covered by insurance: Typically, the laser and light therapies used in cosmetic treatments are not covered by medical insurance. Laser therapy usually requires two to four treatment sessions to achieve the best results, and sessions are generally spaced two to four weeks apart. Intense pulsed light may require two to five sessions and are usually repeated every three weeks. With both laser and intense pulsed light, follow-up treatment may be necessary to maintain the results.*