Heat gun that can blast away rosacea in a flash
01:05 GMT, 11 September 2012
A ‘gun’ that fires energy waves and light has been developed to treat rosacea and other skin conditions.
The device works by destroying tiny blood vessels.
Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that mainly occurs on the face and affects up to one in ten men and women, with men usually having more severe symptoms. These include flushing and spots.
Rosacea has been linked to a number of factors such as sun damage to skin tissue, leading to redness, thread veins and inflammation
Tiny blood vessels can become visible — known as telangiectasia — and, in severe cases, skin can thicken and enlarge, usually around the nose.
W.C. Fields was a famous sufferer, as is, reportedly, Sir Alex Ferguson.
The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, although it has been linked to a number of factors such as sun damage to skin tissue, leading to redness, thread veins and inflammation.
Another theory is infection of the sebaceous glands in the skin with Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
There is no cure — treatments can help minimise the symptoms and, of these, antibiotics are most effective.
Lasers are one of the most widely used remedies for the facial redness.
The laser is fired at the visible blood vessels; the heat damages the veins, causing them to shrink.
The difficulty is that for more severe cases a stronger laser beam is needed, and this carries the risk of bruising, blisters, redness and swelling.
The new hand-held device fires a light beam, but also emits radio frequency energy waves.
The laser is fired at the visible blood vessels; the heat damages the veins, causing them to shrink
It’s thought that the energy breaks down the walls of the blood vessels, so that the veins collapse.
The theory is that the combination of light and radio frequency waves requires a much weaker laser, reducing the risk of side-effects.
Researchers say the light first warms the blood vessels in the face.
The energy waves find it easier to flow through warmer tissue, and so they are drawn to these heated areas and shrink the vessels.
A computer-controlled mechanism cools and protects the skin’s surface skin by not allowing temperatures to rise above pre-set levels. Patients feel only a tingling sensation.
Treatment sessions, which usually last around 30 minutes, require no sedation.
Trial results have shown that the technology can be effective.
In one study from Cornell University, in the U.S., doctors treated 100 patients, with each undergoing five full face treatments, three weeks apart.
The treatment dilated superficial blood vessels, on average, by nearly 70 per cent; while for erythema (redness of the skin caused by increased blood flow as a result of rosacea), the improvement was 68 per cent.
In a second study at Northwestern University, flushing and other symptoms improved significantly.
‘The results of this study suggest that the combination of optical and radio frequency is effective for the treatment of rosacea,’ said the researchers, writing in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.
‘It provides an important treatment option for patients who fail medical therapy.’
The researchers say the treatment can also be used for spider veins, and certain aspects of sun damage — here the therapy breaks down the cells responsible for the pigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation, as it is known, is a common condition where patches of skin become darker in colour than the normal surrounding skin as a result of an excess of melanin.
Researchers found an improvement of 79.3 per cent.
Age or liver spots are a common form of hyperpigmentation and are usually the result of sun damage.
Commenting on the research, Dr Sam Shuster, emeritus professor of dermatology at Newcastle University, said: ‘It is an interesting concept, but more proof is needed.
‘It seems reasonably well established that, with care, it can be used to target dilated blood vessels, but it is not yet clear whether it would actually work on patients with rosacea.’
Meanwhile, scientists have developed an electric ‘gun’ to treat the skin condition vitiligo.
The complaint is characterised by discoloured patches of skin caused by a loss of melanin, the dye-like substance that gives skin its colour and protects it against the sun.
It occurs when the immune cells mistakenly attack melanin.
The new gadget works by firing ultraviolet light at the skin — this is thought to suppress cells of the immune system.
A clinical trial is underway at Nottingham University comparing the hand-held devices against a placebo in 21 patients.
The patients will use either an active or sham device at home for four months.
A previous year-long study of 27 people who were exposed to UV light three times a week revealed that 90 per cent of patients showed significant improvement.