Your health questions answered

Why didn't I know about 'adult acne'?

Q. After two years of terrible acne I have finally been diagnosed and treated for rosacea. I am 36, and the acne appeared for no obvious reason. I tried all sorts of creams, none of which worked. I eventually saw a dermatologist, who immediately told me that I had rosacea - a form of "adult acne". I was started on a course of antibiotics and within a couple of weeks the problem began to disappear. I now take antibiotics once a day, and it seems to be cured. Why isn't there more publicity about this condition?

A. Rosacea (pronounced ro-zay-shea) looks like acne, but it is not the same as teenage acne. The main symptoms are redness and a pimply rash on the cheeks, the nose, the chin and the centre of the forehead. It can also affect the eyes. Rosacea comes and goes, even without any treatment. It affects men and women, and it usually starts in the thirties or forties, unlike acne, which mostly affects people under 20. With good treatment, it can usually be kept under control, although even with treatment it has a tendency to flare up in response to certain trigger factors. The best treatment for an attack of rosacea is a prolonged course of antibiotic tablets, such as oxytetracycline. Once it is under control, it may be possible to keep it calm with skin lotions that contain antibiotics. The underlying cause is unknown. Trigger factors include alcohol, stress and certain foods. An American website, www.rosacea.org, will tell you more.

HAVE I GOT SKIN CANCER?

A. I have developed a small area of roughened red skin over my right eyebrow, which refuses to heal up. It is not a mole or a freckle, and it never bleeds or itches. I am 53 and have spent quite a lot of time in the sun. Could this be skin cancer?

A. This could be a form of skin cancer, but it sounds more like an actinic keratosis. Actinic keratoses are small scaly patches that are caused by ultraviolet-light damage to the skin. Although they are not cancerous, they do have the potential to develop into skin cancer. Usually they do not turn into skin cancer, but occasionally they do. You need to see a dermatologist for a definitive diagnosis.

Please send your questions and suggestions to A Question of Health, 'The Independent', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2182 or e-mail to health@independent.co.uk. Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.

READERS WRITE

AH from the Haemophilia Society thinks the problem of very heavy periods deserves more attention

I work for Women Bleed Too, a project of the Haemophilia Society, which is working to raise awareness of women's bleeding disorders. Our research has discovered that 18 per cent of women worry that their period is not normal. Women who are worried about bleeding problems can contact our helpline (0800 018 6068 - Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm), or our project website: www.womenbleedtoo.org.uk.

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