Rosacea, Red Light (acne lamp), Clonidine and Noritate

Written by on May 29, 2008 with 2 Comments

From: peter.waters
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001 13:09:34

As promised here are details of the lamp and my experiences.  I have broken this down into sections and have tried to keep it as brief and concise as possible but there is much to explain and I hope it doesn’t become boring. To start off there’s not much about the lamp but I feel my history is very relevant to the progression to my current treatment.

My History

First noticed something strange was happening to my skin about 15 years ago during a holiday in Spain.  It was very hot and after a couple of days by the pool and beach I noticed I had many acne type eruptions on my face.  I carried on as usual and a few days later my skin was clear again.  This happened ever year thereafter whilst on holiday abroad but then started to occur during hot sun in the UK.  It always used to clear up within a few more days of exposure to the sun.  I very rarely used sunscreen at that time on my face as I always tanned very easily.  As we know rosacea is a progressive disease if not treated and my skin was showing signs of increasing sensitivity to the sun but remained normal at all other times.  At that stage I didn’t know I had rosacea.  One day I plucked up enough courage to consult a doctor about the problem despite feeling a bit stupid about making a fuss.  That was exactly what happened and I was laughed at and told if it bothered me to stay out of the sun.  Some of you can perhaps identify with this response from some of our medical friends.  A similiar situation occurred again later with a dermatologist and doctor together which resulted in a big argument.  I vowed to get my revenge.

4 years ago I discovered by accident that I had rosacea and I was relieved at last to get some sense out of the situation and satisfaction that I had not been making a fuss about nothing.  I was given a bottle of Oxytetracycline and told to go away.  I assumed this would cure the problem and felt very happy.  Little did I know what was in store for me over the next couple of years.  Being interested I read everything I could find about rosacea and also joined the UK Acne Support Group.  I must add that my rosacea was considered as being very mild but I found that when it erupted I was extremely self conscious of my skin.  Six months elapsed and I didn’t find the Tetracycline made much difference so I stopped taking it.  My doctor suggested Minocin but I found after a few weeks my joints started to ache so I stopped that as well.  My doctor told me to stop any drugs, said I was focusing too much on the problem and suggested that any treatment wouldn’t make much difference to the eventual outcome.  I queried what he meant by that and he suddenly looked uncomfortable because he realised my knowledge of rosacea was better than his.  

By coincidence I hit a period of intense stress which we all go through at some stage in our lives.  I was forced to take redundancy at work, decided to set my own business up but at the same time had to commit both my parents to an old peoples home.  It was sad but they both had diseases which necessitated 24 hour care.  Unfortunately I also started to feel unwell and it was assumed by myself and everyone else that it was due to the stress I was under.  Looking back I now realise that the antibiotics had upset my system and caused or helped towards giving me IBS which was being exacerbated by stress.  Also my rosacea had started to worsen and was now triggered by stress/ different foods with flushing attacks thrown in for good measure.  I decided to attend the annual ASG open day in London and met the renowned dermatologist Dr Tony Chu.  I joined a queue of many other people for a free consultation.  He told me that my rosacea was mild but if I wanted to avoid the risk of developing red eyes and permanent disfigurement I should see my Doctor for treatment.  A couple of topical applications were suggested.  My doctor was not keen to just take his advice even though I had a letter from Tony with the suggested prescription.  I was given an appointment with a National Health dermatologist and from this I was ridiculed, told I didn’t have rosacea but possibly seborrhoeic dermatitis although my skin looked perfectly normal and It was hinted I could be imagining the problem.  Needless to say what followed was a horror story which I will not bother to describe other than to say I reluctantly followed her treatment which caused a severe adverse reaction to my skin. However if I ever meet this lady again I hope she is prepared for what I will say to her because it will not be pleasant.

My skin at this time was getting worse so I tried Tetracycline again but after a few weeks I felt ill again and had to stop.  I resorted to Dalacin T topical solution and this seemed to help.  In desperation I managed to get a referral from my doctor to see Tony Chu.  There was a three month waiting list.  At this time I had read an article about a lamp which had been designed by Tony Chu and his research team at Hammersmith Hospital for treating acne and it sounded very interesting as I thought it would help my skin seeing it eventually improved in the sun.  I saw him in July 1998 and he immediately put me at ease saying that we would crack the disease in the end.  He said my rosacea had been mild but was showing signs of getting worse and he gave my skin a score of 2 out of 10 with 0 being normal and 10 severe rosacea.  He also mentioned that my skin had started to get hard around my cheeks with a woody type feel caused by inflammation of the blood vessels. I asked him about the lamp and he said that the acne trials had been very successful with it working for about 75% of the acne sufferers taking part.  He said it had been designed for acne and he didn’t think it would work for rosacea as the sun aggravated many peoples skin with rosacea.  I asked if I could try but he said all the units had been returned to the manufacturer and there was a legal dispute over the special tubes used which meant it could be some time before anything was available.  I walked away with a prescription for Noritate cream and Clonidine tablets.

We got off to a bad start as the Noritate irritated my skin and after six weeks I gave up.  I saw Tony again and he prescribed Differin cream at night and Dalacin T in the morning.  Still problems as the Differin again irritated my skin and it was back to just the Dalacin T.  Fortunately there were no side effects from the Clonidine tablets.  I had an appointment with Tony again in October 1998 and he said he wanted me to try another oral antibiotic called Trimethoprim together with the Dalacin T and Clonidine.  I was reluctant to try this because of my previous experiences with oral antibiotics but I trusted him and he was very reassuring.  He explained that I might feel uncomfortable for about ten days but my system would recover and there would be no side effects.  At this time he told me that the problem with tubes for the lamp had been resolved and it looked like he had found a company who were going to market the lamp before the Christmas of 1998.  I returned home and started on the Trimethoprim.  He was right I did feel very uncomfortable and instead of recovering after a couple of weeks I got worse and worse.  I carried on taking it for five weeks and felt so ill that I decided enough was enough and I would stop.  I phoned Tony up and he said it was unusual for someone to have such a bad reaction to Trimethoprim.  I said that I couldn’t carry on and that I would try and get hold of the lamp to see if it would help.  He said I could but he still didn’t think it would work. I told him I couldn’t see any harm in trying. I contacted the manufacturers the same day and explained that I wanted to try it as a treatment for rosacea and would they let me purchase one.  They were very helpful and interested but explained that it would be at least another month before the units would be ready for sale to the general public and I would have to wait and ring their ordering line when the number was announced.  I can be very persuasive as eventually they agreed to sell me one of their prototype lamps used for the origin al trial, provided I promised to keep it a secret.

The Acne Lamp

The lamp looks like a facial UV  tanning unit and comprises of four light tubes – two of red light and two of blue light.  It had be known for sometime that many acne sufferers noticed their skin improved in sunlight and this was due to the fact that it activated a group of chemicals called porphyrins, which are present in bacteria and act as antibacterial agents.  Unfortunately this effect could not be reproduced with ordinary sun bed rays.

The system above uses special tubes which send out red and blue waves of light thus blitzing the spots and healing the skin by in effect exposing the spots to extra oxygen.  The pro-pionibacterium bug, which is responsible for acne, and is present in everybody’s skin is usually lodged in the hair root.  This particular bacterium is what is called an anaerobic bacterium which means it can only live when there is a minimum amount of oxygen about.  It is however very unusual in that it naturally uses a chemical called porphyrin to help it breathe.  Porphyrins if they are exposed to certain wavelengths of light will become excited and produce oxygen that will eventually lead to the death of this bacterium.  The wavelengths of light that are important in this process are found in part of the blue spectrum.  Research over a number of years has shown that certain wavelengths of light in part of the red spectrum influence the healing of tissues by stimulating the white blood cells to produce fibroblasts, the building blocks from which new tissue is created, thus healing any abrasions.  The wavelengths of light produced by the lamp are outside those which will cause damage to the skin, there is therefore no risk of sunburn, sun ageing of the skin or the induction of skin cancer. 

Treatment with the lamp consists of sitting in front of it at a set distance wearing goggles for 15 minutes each day.  It was stressed that people would not see their acne disappearing overnight but the average patient would see an improvement within 8 weeks.  As with other medical treatments it is not possible to guarantee success in every case.

I started using the lamp at the end of November 1998 for 15 minutes a day.  My skin was worse at the time because I was getting a rebounding effect caused by stopping the Trimethoprim, so It was difficult initially to judge if the lamp was helping plus it was winter and we all know how central heating can be a trigger.  After a couple of weeks I was convinced that my skin was improving and this was verified by Tony when I saw him at my next appointment a week later.  He remarked how it looked and felt softer plus some of the redness had reduced.

I carried on using the lamp every day and the improvement was maintained.  Again when I saw Tony again in March and June 1999 he confirmed that the lamp appeared to be helping control my rosacea and told me to carry on using it as it was completely safe for long term treatment.  At this stage I told him I wanted to see what would happen if I converted the blue tubes to red to give an all red lamp, as it was felt the red light was the more effective for rosacea.  I spoke to the manufacturers about this and they were so keen for me to try this they gave me two red tubes free of charge.  I converted the lamp over and after a few weeks I again felt my skin was improving even more.  I have been using the all red lamp daily ever since and it appears to be controlling my rosacea.  I still use Dalacin T on a small area of my face and I still take Clonidine tablets.  I still have the odd mild flare up but 99.9% of the time my face is rosacea free and looks normal.

Red Light Trial

Tony Chu was so impressed by my results with the all red light he has decided it warranted investigation and is trying to arrange a clinical trial with other rosacea sufferers of varying degrees of severity to see if they obtain similiar success.  When I saw him last December he told me he had obtained the volunteers he required and was in the process of trying to obtain funding.  No timing was available for the predicted start date and once this happens I don’t know how long it will be before some feedback emerges of the progress.

Summary

Sorry this is a long message but I felt everything I had experienced with rosacea was relevant.  As I explained last week I would have really liked to have waited until the results of the trials were known before releasing this, but as someone has mentioned the lamp then perhaps I ought to tell my story to this group. We all know that there is no miracle cure for rosacea and the lamp is certainly no exception.  Also rosacea is such a strange disease, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. As you have read the lamp has helped me and I hope that other rosacea sufferers will be able to benefit, but unfortunately there are no guarantees.

I will try and keep you all posted over the next few months with the
latest information on the trial.  Hopefully I have answered all the
questions I was asked last week. 

Regards
Peter

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About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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2 Reader Comments

  1. MAC30 says:

    Peter,

    Here is my experience,

    While read your description and experience, I find strong similarities. I was diagnose almost 2 years ago at the peak of stress. It was bad, very bad. I was treated with oral and topical antibiotics. These, did nothing or got it worst, specially the topic anti-bio. Interestingly, I observe major improvements a couple of days after I visit Caracas. I notice changes after a went swing in swimming pools a couple of days. Normally, I have 2-8 lesions + flaring; my face was clear of lesions. Once I returned to Chicago, I tried to get expose to the sun and swimming pool water as often as I could. Improvements continued. Currently, I go to the swimming pool 3-4 times a week. My face kind o like it, if I have lesions (cyclic) these get better, much better faster following pool water.

    I have an MD and a PhD (immunology) and I have tried everything (antibiotics, anti-histamines, borax, tee tree oil, aspiring, yogurt, and probably some other stuff. I think there is something on photo-therapy, as it seems to be helping.

    M30

  2. Dirk says:

    Peter,

    Interesting story. Are you talking about an infrared lamp? What lavelenghts does it use? How are these lamps called in general?

    Dirk

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