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Seborrhea and Rosacea When Considering LASIK

Rosacea and seborrhea are disorders which involve inflammation of the oil glands. Although they are similar in nature, and often occur together, rosacea is a more severe condition which is much more likely to prohibit LASIK surgery.

Seborrhea (seborrheic dermatitis, seborrheic eczema, dandruff, cradle cap) is an inflammatory skin condition which affects the oil glands (sebaceous glands), causing the skin to be oily and flaky at the same time. Due to this combination, people who suffer with the condition often pursue a frustrating series of remedies which only make symptoms worse.

The cause of the condition is uncertain, but it is thought that hormones or a fungus may be responsible. It is more prevalent in people with neurological conditions including head injuries, strokes, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as those with HIV. Stress seems to worsen the symptoms.

Seborrhea most commonly affects the scalp, showing up as dandruff or cradle cap, but can affect other parts of the body including the face (particularly the eyebrows, eyelids, creases of the nose, lips, and around the ears), chest, and in the folds of the arms, legs, and groin. Symptoms can include:

  • Oily or greasy areas of skin
  • Flaky skin or scales
  • Raised red patches (plaques)
  • Skin lesions
  • Itching
  • Mild redness
  • Hair loss in extreme cases

Your doctor may simply refer to seborrhea as eczema, but there are many types of eczema, and it is important to know the underlying cause of the condition when considering eye surgery. Seborrhea is often mistaken as a symptom of allergies.

For most people with seborrhea, LASIK is a safe procedure, but seborrhea can cause dry eye which can cause LASIK complications. It can also cause inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis). If blepharitis is present you should not undergo surgery until it has been successfully treated.

Rosacea is a neurovascular disorder which affects the sebaceous glands and the blood vessels. It is a much more serious condition than seborrhea, but the two are sometimes confused, and often occur together.

Anyone can develop rosacea. People with fair skin are more prone to the condition. It is more common in women, but more severe in men. There are many theories on what may cause rosacea, but at this time no one is sure. Sun exposure, stress, and hot weather trigger or aggravate symptoms. The symptoms of rosacea can include:

  • Flushing of the face
  • Persistent redness
  • Bumps and pimples
  • Visible blood vessels
  • Eye irritation
  • Burning or stinging skin
  • Skin that appears dry
  • Raised red patches (plaques)
  • Skin thickening (rhinophyma, often occurs as a bulbous nose)
  • Facial swelling

Rosacea that affects the eyes is called ocular rosacea. Symptoms of ocular rosacea include:

  • Red, dry, or irritated eyes or eyelids
  • Foreign body sensation (feeling of grit or sand in the eyes)
  • Itching
  • Burning

LASIK is not safe for people with active ocular rosacea. There is no cure for the condition at this time, but there are effective treatments. Steroid eye drops are often used, and in some cases oral antibiotics are prescribed. If the condition is well under control LASIK surgery may be safe, but there is some risk should a flare-up occur.

Seborrhea and rosacea can both cause LASIK complications, but under the right circumstances those who suffer with either or both conditions may, under the proper conditions and with the advice of your ophthalmologist, safely have LASIK surgery. While it is not the only consideration, the common sense question, “Are your eyes or eyelids irritated or inflamed?” is going to be a huge determining factor, which applies whether you have these conditions or not.

If you suffer from seborrhea or rosacea, ask you ophthalmologist if LASIK is a safe option today.

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