There are many medications available today to treat rosacea. But medication doesn't work for all symptoms—especially redness and flushing, as well as skin thickening around the nose. If you've been struggling with these symptoms, laser treatment may be an option. It's provided dramatic results for some people who have these two difficult-to-treat rosacea symptoms.
How Lasers Calm the Redness
Although different types of lasers can be used to treat a red rosacea complexion, one of the most common and effective is the pulsed dye laser (PDL). This laser is absorbed by red blood cells and destroys the lining of inflamed and visible blood vessels.
"Targeting these visible blood vessels can greatly reduce redness and flushing," explains Sanusi Umar, M.D., who heads up FineTouch Dermatology, a practice with locations in Redondo Beach and Beverly Hills, California. "Laser treatment isn't a cure for rosacea, but many patients see results for months or even years after treatment."
What to Expect
Typically, laser therapy requires a series of treatments to see results. You may need anywhere from two to eight treatments, which are spaced about six weeks apart.
"Depending on severity of symptoms, skin type, and other factors, people respond to laser treatment differently. Some need only a few treatments. Others may require more," says Dr. Umar. "It's important to find a dermatologist who is experienced and skilled in laser surgery and can tailor treatment to your specific condition and needs."
How Effective Is It?
Most patients report that laser treatment helps reduce visible blood vessels, flushing, and redness. In fact, a recent study found that people with rosacea undergoing laser therapy saw a 40 to 60 percent improvement in these symptoms after the second treatment.
"Just remember that laser treatment is not a cure for the disease. It permanently targets the symptoms that are visible at the time of treatment," says Dr. Umar. "However, it's not uncommon for some new blood vessels to appear down the line, which may require follow-up care."
Giving New Shape to the Nose
Lasers used to treat excess or thickened skin on or around the nose are different from those used to treat redness. Many dermatologists use a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, which contours the nose by eliminating excess tissue. The laser works by targeting water in the excess tissue.
Most patients need at least two or three treatment sessions, which are performed four to eight weeks apart. And the results can be significant, smoothing the skin by safely removing excess tissue. However, if you're experiencing this rosacea symptom, don't wait to talk with a dermatologist. Those who seek treatment soon after noticing symptoms have the best results. The more advanced the problem, the more difficult it is to treat.
The Side Effects of Laser Treatment
Side effects from both types of laser treatments are typically minimal. You may find that you're red, swollen, and sore the day after treatment. Some people may have temporary bruising for a week or two. In some cases, crusting, discoloration, or scarring can occur.
Are You a Candidate?
It's important to talk with an experienced dermatologist to see if you're a candidate for laser treatment. Laser treatment should not be used if you have a tan or are dark skinned. It's also not right for those who easily scar, have a blood-clotting disorder, or have insulin-dependent diabetes. Pregnant women should also avoid laser treatment.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Laser treatment can be expensive. Typically, medical insurance doesn't cover the treatments, which can cost around $300 to $600 a session. But it may be worth it.
"Although there is no guarantee how it will work for you, laser treatment provides welcome relief for many," says Dr. Umar. "Although the treatment doesn't change the course of the disease, it can help people look better and, more important, feel better about themselves."