When dealing with rosacea, experts agree that a strong offense is usually a patient's best defense. According to research, rosacea sufferers who diligently follow long-term medical therapy substantially reduce their chances of a relapse.
"Consistent long-term medical therapy and lifestyle modifications are widely acknowledged as the most effective means of successfully managing rosacea," said Dr. Mark Dahl, chairman of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota. "Because this is a chronic and progressive disorder of remissions and flare-ups, even when your rosacea calms down, it's important to continue therapy in order to prevent relapse."
Backing that assertion, recent clinical studies demonstrated that patients who continued to use their prescribed medical therapy are substantially less likely to experience a recurrence of symptoms. In a study of rosacea sufferers over a six-month period, 77 percent of the patients who maintained long-term therapy remained in remission, while 42 percent of those who did not experienced a relapse.1
The importance of complying with medical therapy also was underscored in the results of a National Rosacea Society survey of more than 1,022 rosacea sufferers. In that survey, 74 percent of the respondents said their condition worsened if they failed to use the medication as prescribed by their physicians. Of those using medication as directed, 98 percent reported that it had reduced or at least somewhat reduced their symptoms.
Characterized by redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead, rosacea usually first strikes adults in their 30s, 40s or 50s. Initially the redness may come and go, but left untreated it tends to become more pronounced and permanent, and tiny visible blood vessels may appear. As the disease progresses, facial swelling may occur and bumps and pimples often develop.
To bring rosacea under immediate control, physicians typically prescribe both oral and topical antibiotics. Long-term therapy then usually consists of the topical medication alone, since long-term treatment with oral antibiotics has been associated with nausea, gastrointestinal upset, phototoxicity and vaginal infection.
In addition to medical therapy, rosacea patients are advised to avoid environmental and lifestyle factors that may aggravate their individual conditions. The most common rosacea tripwires include sun exposure, emotional stress, hot weather, alcoholic beverages, spicy foods, strenuous exercise, hot drinks, cold weather and wind.
A diary checklist is available from the National Rosacea Society to help rosacea sufferers identify their personal rosacea triggers, and a new booklet called "Coping with Rosacea" provides tips on how to avoid or minimize these factors.
Dahl MV, Katz I, et al: Topical metronidazole maintains remissions of rosacea. Archives of Dermatology. 1998;134:679-683.