Targeted Approach to Rosacea Treatment

For the 14 million-plus Americans who deal with the flushed, red, and breakout- prone skin of rosacea, regaining a clear complexion would be a dream come true. But for now, there’s no cure for rosacea and treating it can be a challenge.

“The name of the game is control,” says John E. Wolf, Jr., MD, professor of dermatology and chairman of the department of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

To achieve this control, your doctor will prescribe individualized rosacea treatment, usually using topical medications — and you’ll encourage your skin’s improvement with gentle care and protection from rosacea triggers.

Medications for Rosacea Treatment

Rosacea is an inflammatory disorder, so treatments are aimed at reducing inflammation, Dr. Wolf says. Typically, dermatologists start with topical medications and move on to oral antibiotics if needed.

  • Topical medications. Prescription creams and gels can help calm the symptoms of rosacea. The two most common topicals are metronidazole (Metrogel, Metrocream, and other brands) and azelaic acid (Finacea and Azelex), Wolf says. Dermatologists may also use a retinoid, a vitamin-A derivative that’s used to treat wrinkles, or a sodium sulfacetamide-sulfur foam. On the downside, these medications may irritate the skin and cause burning, stinging, or itching, reactions people with rosacea are already prone to.
  • Oral antibiotics. You may associate antibiotics with bacterial infections, but these drugs also have anti- inflammatory effects, which can help people with rosacea, Wolf says. Doctors typically prescribe oral antibiotics from the tetracycline family of drugs if patients don’t get enough benefit from topical therapies.

Because you can become resistant to antibiotics from extended use, doctors typically prescribe them for just long enough to bring rosacea symptoms under control and will then switch you to topical medications, Wolf says.

A newer, low-dose oral antibiotic, Oracea (doxycycline), is formulated to be used over a longer period of time. “This medication is unique because it doesn’t appear to cause the development of resistant bacteria,” Wolf says.

Skin Care and Lifestyle Tips for Rosacea

Gentle skin care plays a big part in controlling rosacea. Get started on these lifestyle habits:

After rinsing with lukewarm water, pat (don’t rub) your skin dry with a towel. Then wait 5 to 10 minutes before applying your prescription medication, to cut down on stinging and irritation. (If your skin feels irritated, try waiting up to 30 minutes after washing your face).

Although rosacea doesn’t usually cause serious health problems, dealing with it can be frustrating. You may not be able to get rid of it for good, but following these steps to control your rosacea can reduce some of the frustration and symptoms.

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