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Taking the Red Out: Treating Rosacea

Man with rosacea

Winter is coming—and that is not good news for people with rosacea. The things many of us love about the season—cold weather, hot drinks, and outdoor exercise—can lead to the redness, bumps, and skin irritation that are hallmarks of their condition.

Those with rosacea are often fair skinned, over 30 years old, and tend to blush easily. Over time, these individuals may develop small blood vessels on their cheeks, chin, forehead and nose that do not serve and explicit purpose. These small blood vessels are called telangiectasias and expand due to triggers such as cold weather, hot drinks, exercise, sun exposure, and stress. While not always visible to the naked eye, they contribute to the overall red face appearance that is common with rosacea.

"While many people think rosacea is just a red face, there are actually several subtypes and identifying which type a patient has can help create a targeted treatment plan," says Adam Tinklepaugh, MD, dermatologist and director of the University of Utah Health's new Rosacea Specialty Clinic.

"In addition to redness, patients may develop acne-like bumps and even skin thickening. We can usually treat these findings with topical and oral medications, but for moderate and severe cases there are new and innovative treatments with lasers and surgery."

Unlike some oral and topical medications that only control symptoms, lasers allow doctors to target the red areas on the face. This approach eliminates the underlying blood vessels and offers a cure to redness.

"Typically, 2-4 laser treatments are needed to effectively treat the redness seen with rosacea," explained Tinklepaugh. "Equally important is avoiding the triggers that make your skin flare. Extended sun exposure is one of the most prevalent triggers so that offers another reason to apply sunscreen to the face every day."

For rosacea that causes skin thickening, especially on the nose (rhinophyma), surgery may be a better treatment approach. This helps smooth and shape affected skin back to its normal appearance. This surgery is generally reserved for severe cases that have significant skin thickening.

Rosacea is an incredibly common condition, but many people will never know that it is the cause of their symptoms. However, in many cases it can bothersome, embarrassing, and sometimes painful.

"Whether a patient has mild redness or severe skin thickening, if it bothers you, there are many possible treatment options," said Tinklepaugh.