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Turning Red? It Could Be Rosacea

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 24, 2001 -- You thought adulthood would finally mean clear skin. Then you started turning red in the face. Well, if that blush is more than mere embarrassment -- if, in fact, you have the common skin condition called rosacea, take heart. Experts are offering up some promising new treatments.

Around 14 million Americans have rosacea, a skin disorder that causes redness and swelling on the face -- especially around the cheeks, forehead, chin, and nose.

"Rosacea can have devastating effects on self-esteem because it strikes adults who are in the prime of their life and who often feel that this condition affects their work and social life," says Allison T. Vidimos, MD, in a news release. She is from the department of dermatology at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Therefore, treatment options need to be quick and have little downtime, ensuring that patients get back to work and their families without too much disruption," says Vidimos.

Rosacea usually strikes fair-skinned people between the ages of 30 and 50. The problem may begin as 'easy blushing,' but then visible small blood vessels and acne-like pimples develop. Heat and cold, sunlight, stress, hot drinks, alcohol, spicy foods, and certain skin-care products can worsen the condition.

Rosacea is typically treated by avoiding the triggers that cause flare ups, and by staying out of the sun. Drug treatment includes antibiotics in both pill and cream form.

But if those treatments haven't produced the results you'd like, it may be time to turn to chemical peels and lasers.

Glycolic acid peels can be used in conjunction with antibiotics to speed up control of rosacea. They generally take 3 to 5 minutes, are applied every 2 to 4 weeks, and leave your face red for a few hours afterwards.

Topical treatments, however, including glycolic peels, only treat the acne-like pimples of rosacea. They don't get rid of the redness or enlarged blood vessels. But lasers can.

Vascular lasers attack tiny visible blood vessels just under the skin. Heat from the laser causes the vessels to collapse and disappear. There is no bruising with the new lasers, but they may cause temporary redness and slight swelling that lasts a day or two.


Intense light and laser therapy can also treat enlarged blood vessels. Both treatments take 15 to 30 minutes and are done every 6 to 12 weeks. You might need several treatments to get the problem under control, but after that, yearly treatments should be sufficient.

In some severe cases of rosacea, most often seen in men over 40, an enlarged red nose may develop from clogged oil glands. There are several treatment options, including removing excess tissue with laser surgery, dermabrasion, or electrosurgery. This sculpts the nose back into a normal shape, and can be done on an outpatient basis in your doctor's office. Healing takes about a week to 10 days.

"It's important for individuals with rosacea to seek treatment early to avoid progression of the condition and avoid any permanent scarring to the face," says Vidimos. "Today's dermatology offers a variety of treatment options that can achieve successful results and fit into even the busiest lifestyle."

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
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