A special laser which can destroy tiny blood vessels is being used to treat rosacea – the chronic, progressive skin disorder which affects more than five million men and women in Britain.
The laser eliminates the malfunctioning blood vessels under the skin which make the face red – dramatically improving the quality of life for rosacea sufferers, most of whom are in their 30s and 40s.
Dermatologist Dr Alison Vidimos says: ‘Rosacea can have devastating effects on self-esteem. Because it strikes adults who are in their prime, sufferers often feel it affects their work and social life.
Imagine having a noticeable facial skin condition that makes your face flushed even when you’re not embarrassed. Such are the struggles for adults with rosacea.’
Usually, rosacea first appears as a flush or red patch. The most common symptoms include facial redness and inflammation around the nose, cheeks, chin and forehead, as well as visibly dilated blood vessels and a burning sensation.
If left untreated, it worsens over time. The redness becomes more persistent, and bumps and pimples called papules and pustules appear. In some cases, the eyes may be affected too, becoming irritated and bloodshot. In advanced cases, the nose can become red and swollen from excess tissue.
Max Murison, consultant plastic surgeon at Morrison Hospital in Swansea says: ‘Although rosacea can be treated with creams and antibiotics that calm down the skin, the dilated vessels beneath remain. It is these that we are now able to treat with a laser.
‘The effect of the laser is to heat up the blood vessel and seal it – and it’s gone. ‘Although it is not quite painless – there can be a bit of sting with each zap of the laser – it does clear up the redness.
‘Sometimes more than one session is needed, but people notice a big difference even after the first session.’
In Swansea, 53 year-old Joan Derrick is having a course of laser treatment on the NHS for the rosacea that has plagued her for more than a decade. ‘It has really been a terrible problem,’ she says. ‘It is quite painful and has got worse over the years. Both of my cheeks, my chin and nose are affected.
‘I have no idea what started it – it just came out of the blue ten years ago. ‘Since then, I haven’t been able to wear make-up because it irritates my skin. ‘If I am going out, I need to put on a concealing green cream which takes a bit of the redness out. But if you are in a hot room, the redness soon comes through – and it burns and burns.
‘The doctor told me it was just one of those thing, and over the years I have tried everything to get rid of it. I think I must have tried every possible cream and antibiotic.
‘Each time, I’d think one would help, but in the end nothing worked. Now, at last, I am having laser treatment to finally get rid of them. It is such a relief. ‘One of the worst things is when people ask if I’ve been in the sun. When I am out shopping and I get a flare-up, someone will always ask if I have been on the sunbed for too long. ‘Or some people say I look like I’ve had too much to drink, which is even more upsetting. It makes me feel really awful.
‘I know my face has gone red because I can feel the burning sensation that comes with it. ‘If I’m at home it’s not so bad, but if I’m out I fell terribly self-conscious. I even have to be careful what I wear. Red is certainly out, because it makes my face look redder than ever.’
It is not known what causes rosacea, but the latest theory is that there may be a link between the disorder and how often and how strongly people blush.
Researchers have suggested that constant blushing eventually results in a blockage of the pores, which leads to spots. It is also thought that there is some effect on the collagen fibres in the skin that support the blood vessels.
Normally, these fibres are in neat rows, like supportive scaffolding. But in many patients with rosacea, the fibres are crumbling and no longer provide support for the blood vessels under the skin surface. As a result, these blood vessels relax, get bigger and stay dilated. Because the vessels are only just under the skin, the blood makes the skin appear red.
With the new treatment, lasers emit specific wave-lengths of light targeted at the tiny visible blood vessels just under the skin. Heat from the laser’s energy builds in the vessels, making them collapse and disappear.
Patients have no bruising but there may be some swelling for 24 to 48 hours. Treatment sessions take from 15 to 30 minutes and can be carried out at six to 12 week interval.
Source: Daily Mail