How salt-blasting surgery cured my disfiguring condition called 'drinker's red nose'

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UPDATED:

22:23 GMT, 12 May 2012

It is often called ‘a drinker’s nose’. In fact, those who suffer the disfiguring condition known properly as rhinophyma tend to drink less than the rest of the population, according to research.

It is a severe type of rosacea, the incurable skin disease that affects one in ten Britons, typically resulting in facial flushing and acne.

In rhinophyma, the skin – particularly on the nose – thickens, leading to the characteristic ruddy, bulbous and lumpy appearance.

JOHN CLOUGH from Blackburn had a new treatment to get rid of his lumpy, red nose

John Clough, 64, from Blackburn, Lancashire, underwent a surgical procedure used to cure snoring, and to destroy head and neck cancers, has been adapted to tackle even the most advanced cases of rhinophyma.

'Drinkers nose' : In rhinophyma, the skin – particularly on the nose – thickens, leading to the characteristic ruddy, bulbous and lumpy appearance. John Clough has had treatment to get rid of his red nose

Previously, the only option for
patients was surgical ‘shaving’ procedures, using a scalpel, or burning
away the excess tissue with lasers. Both these procedures resulted in
bleeding, and risk of infection.

Now,
a surgical procedure used to cure snoring, and to destroy head and neck
cancers, has been adapted to tackle even the most advanced cases of
rhinophyma.

It works by
using low-energy radio frequency beams to dissolve thickened tissue
while causing minimal damage, and has remarkable results.

A team of
British surgeons reported major improvements in patients’ appearance,
with the size of noses shrinking by a third or more, and disappearance
of the red colouring.

One of
the first patients to have the procedure, known as coblation, is John
Clough, 64, who developed rhinophyma about 15 years ago. The
semi-retired marketing consultant says having the treatment has changed
his life.

He says: ‘I had
always been prone to redness, especially on my nose, but it got worse
and was eventually there all the time. /05/12/article-2143499-130E58AC000005DC-921_634x785.jpg” width=”634″ height=”785″ alt=”John Clough, 64, from Blackburn, Lancashire, underwent a surgical procedure used to cure snoring, and to destroy head and neck cancers, has been adapted to tackle even the most advanced cases of rhinophyma.” class=”blkBorder” />

New Look: John Clough, 64, underwent a surgical procedure used to cure snoring, and to destroy head and neck cancers, has been adapted to tackle even the most advanced cases of rhinophyma

He adds: ‘I didn’t
let my nose get in the way of my life, but I suppose I was
self-conscious. I often had to go out to clients and do presentations so
I kind of used humour as a coping mechanism.

‘In
a presentation, for example, I might say something like, “Would you
mind blowing my nose I think you are closer to the end of it than I
am.” 

‘I was told there wasn’t much available to treat it, apart from something like a Black and Decker sander.’

John,
who lives in Blackburn, Lancashire, with his partner Angela, 58, an
accountant, eventually was referred to surgeon Michael Timms at The
Royal Blackburn Hospital, who was about to begin trialling the coblation
treatment.

‘They
jokingly described it as being like sandblasting with salt, and warned
me that I wouldn’t want to go out for a few weeks afterwards because it
would look bad,’ says John.

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that primarily affects the face, and symptoms usually begin in early adulthood. Alongside flushing, common signs include broken veins, inflammation and hot itching skin.

It is estimated that one in ten people suffers from some degree of redness, and although it is twice as common in women, men are up to ten times more likely to have more serious forms including rhinophyma. Those who suffer with rosacea and rhinophyma are sensitive to temperature, hot liquids, alcohol, spicy foods and sunlight, but these are not the cause.

It is thought that the temporary swelling that often follows a flushing reaction in rosacea can, over time, lead to the permanent growth of excess tissue leading eventually to the characteristic large, bulbous nose, enlarged pores, orange-peel like and ruddy appearance.

During the procedure the patient is put under general anaesthetic. A hand-held coblation ‘wand’ emits a slow stream of saline solution – sterilised salt water – from the end that comes into contact with the nose.

At the same time, it emits waves of radiofrequency energy to excite the molecules in the solution which ‘sands’ down the tissue. It also uses a low heat to cauterise (clot) any bleeding blood vessels.

John says: ‘I had a general anaesthetic and the whole thing took about 20 minutes. It was day surgery – I went home in the late afternoon, with a cream that had be applied everyday.

‘It looked pretty awful. Essentially, I’d had hundreds of layers of skin filed away leaving a raw wound, which scabbed over. But after the first day I didn’t need painkillers and it looked far worse than it felt.

‘I’d say my nose has reduced by about one third in size, back to what it was when I was younger. It is much smoother, and has lost the red colouring. In fact, it is slightly paler than my other skin now. It’s an absolutely brilliant result.’