March 10, 2009

New Rosacea Study: Another Reason to Stay Out of the Sun

Some intriguing new research about rosacea emerged from the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual meeting, which I attended earlier this month. [CK]

Dr. Alexa Boer Kimball, who teaches dermatology at Harvard Medical School, reported that if you have a family member with rosacea, your chances of also developing the skin disorder is triple what it is for someone without such a family history.

Equally interesting, however, was Dr. Kimball’s finding regarding sunburns: Of the people in her study with rosacea, 44 percent reported having at least one blistering sunburn during their life. This compares with only 5 percent of people without rosacea.

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by redness, swelling, bumps or pimples, and enlarged blood vessels. It mainly affects the face, a factor that can make the condition socially embarrassing—and debilitating.

Dr. Kimball stressed that she didn’t yet know, based on her research, if the sunburn was a cause of the rosacea or if people with the condition were using the sun to try and lessen their symptoms. Still, we all need to protect ourselves from the sun. And if you have a family history of rosacea, you may need to be particularly on guard. Minimize your risk of sunburn—and that of your children—by wearing sun-protective clothes and a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15.

Should the symptoms of rosacea develop, seek the care of a dermatologist as soon as possible. Although there is no cure for rosacea (yet), we can treat the inflammatory condition with medications. Then, once the inflammation is under control, we can further improve your skin’s appearance with cosmetic procedures, such as chemical peels, laser therapy, and phototherapy.