For most of us warm sunny days are what make a good summer. Unfortunately, though, for sufferers of the distressing condition rosacea, sunshine is a curse rather then a blessing. Often confused with acne, it is a separate condition altogether. It affects both sexes over 30 and although it's slightly more common in women, rosacea is more severe in men.

Rosacea's cause is unknown but it occurs more often in people who blush easily. Tiny blood vessels under the skin dilate, giving the appearance of telangiectasia - fine red lines around the nose, forehead and chin.

If ignored, rosacea has a tendency to worsen. Strong emotion, changes in the weather, spicy food and alcohol can all intensify its appearance, and the most severe change is in the nose. This can become bulbous, reddened and enlarged (called a rhinophyma) as in the case of W C Fields - many assumed his appearance was due to drink, when in fact his alcohol intake played only a small part in his famous facial features.

Prompt recognition and treatment of rosacea is essential to allow people to live without embarrassment. I often see sufferers who have tried many over-the counter acne preparations that have only served further to irritate their skin. The correct medication is antibiotics, either in cream form to be rubbed into the face, or given as a regular low-dose course for many months. Lymecycline 408mg once a day and Differin Gel on the skin just before bed have proven effective. Your GP can advise you on the most suitable product for you. Simple soap and water should be all that is put on the face otherwise, and great care should be taken with the choice of sunscreen - a factor of 15 or more should be used.

In some situations there is redness due to dilation of small blood vessels in the skin and these can usually be seen by the naked eye. If these are present then they can be treated with a fair degree of success with a vascular laser. If Telangiectasia is a problem, laser treatment is safe and effective when performed by trained consultants, and if rhinophyma has developed, surgery is the only practical solution. This is often coupled with laser treatment.

Laser treatment for the male beard area can sometimes result in hair loss, particulary with dark hair. This may be patchy and unsightly. Some regrowth will occur, but there is the possibility of permanent hair loss. If this is a risk, you may choose to only have the area without hair treated.

Although we are happy to take NHS and Private referrals, you may find that there is a centre closer to you that would be able to offer some advice and treatment. The best approach would be to speak to your General Practitioner and seek an appropriate referral.

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