Breaking Down Rosacea

While I have written several previous posts regarding rosacea, new groundbreaking research that may affect future treatment is ongoing.  As a reminder, rosacea is a chronic skin disorder of the face, characterized by flushing, persistent redness, development of pimple-like areas and permanent visible blood vessels.  This is a very common condition affecting up to 10% of the U.S. population, with three times more women affected than men.

New research has uncovered some of the possible causes of rosacea, which will hopefully lead to new treatments to prevent the pattern of acne-like lesions and visible blood vessel formation.  The most interesting area of research relates to the immune system and its effects on the skin.

We all have a physical and chemical barrier within our skin that prevents pathogens, such as bacteria, from invading the skin.  If a pathogen penetrates the barrier, a genetic pattern recognition system kicks in and activates an immune response, consisting of inflammatory cells, and production of what are called antimicrobial peptides, or AMPs.

These AMPS can act directly on bacteria like a natural antibiotic, or can signal to other parts of the immune system that a response is needed.  One particular form of AMP called cathelicidin generates the growth of blood vessels in an affected area of skin.

According to one current theory, rosacea may be caused by an overactive response of the immune system with increased cathelicidin production.  The more catheliciden that is produced, the more blood vessels are created, and the redder the face becomes as a result.

An active area of new research will be to find a treatment for this overactive skin immune response.  It will probably entail targeting the production of these AMPs, specifically cathelicidin.  However, no such treatment yet exists, and may not be able to undo already-existing blood vessels that are present.

Physical interventions such as lasers will still be necessary to resolve pre-existing facial blood vessels, but at least there is hope for prevention if this line of research pans out into treatment.  As always, I will be try to keep you up to date on areas new developments on this and other areas of skin care.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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