From the Journals

Experts outline phenotype approach to rosacea



A phenotype approach should be used to diagnose and manage rosacea, according to an expert panel that included 17 dermatologists from North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.

“As individual treatments do not address multiple features simultaneously, consideration of specific phenotypical issues facilitates individualized optimization of rosacea,” the panel concluded. As individual presentations of rosacea can span more than one of the currently defined disease subtypes, and vary widely in severity, dermatologists have long expressed a need to move to a phenotype-based system for diagnosis and classification.

The goal of the panel was “to establish international consensus on diagnosis and severity determination to improve outcomes” for people with rosacea (Br J Dermatol. 2016 Oct 8. doi: 10.1111/bjd.15122).

Jerry L. Tan, MD, of the University of Western Ontario, Windsor, and coauthors, explained why they considered a transition to the phenotype-based approach important: “Subtype classification may not fully cover the range of clinical presentations and is likely to confound severity assessment, whereas a phenotype-based approach could improve patient outcomes by addressing an individual patient’s clinical presentation and concerns.”

The panel identified two phenotypes as independently diagnostic of rosacea: persistent, centrofacial erythema associated with periodic intensification, and phymatous changes. Flushing or transient erythema, telangiectasia, inflammatory lesions, and ocular manifestations – the other phenotypes identified in the study – were not considered individually diagnostic.

Severity measurements for each phenotype were defined with a high degree of consensus, and the panel agreed that the severity of each feature should be rated independently and not grouped into subtype. For flushing or transient erythema, for example, the panel recommended that clinicians consider the intensity and frequency of episodes along with the area of involvement. For phymatous changes, inflammation, skin thickening, and deformation were identified as the key severity measures.

Although the investigators acknowledged that their expert consensus was the product of clinical opinion in the absence of extensive evidence, they cited as one of the study’s strengths its broad expert representation across geographical regions, where rosacea presentations may differ. Erythema and telangiectasia, Dr. Tan and colleagues wrote, “may not be visible in skin phototypes V and VI, an issue that may be overcome with experience and appropriate history taking.” They added that “other techniques, including skin biopsy, can also be considered for diagnostic support.” They recommended the development of new validated scales to be used in darker-skinned patients.

The panel also identified the psychosocial impact of rosacea as one severely understudied area of rosacea, and advocated the development of a new research tool that would assess psychological comorbidities. The proposed tool, they wrote, “should go beyond those currently available and assess the psychosocial impact for all major phenotypes.” The only rosacea-specific quality of life scoring measure, RosaQoL, contains notable deficiencies, they noted, including a lack of a measure for phymatous changes.

“Since clinicians and patients often have disparate views of disease,” the researchers wrote, “objective and practical tools based on individual presenting features are likely to be of value in setting treatment targets and monitoring treatment progress for patients with rosacea.”

The panel included three ophthalmologists from Germany and the United States; their recommendations were considered exploratory.

The study, which consisted of both electronic surveys and in-person meetings, was funded by Galderma. Twelve of its coauthors, including Dr. Tan, disclosed financial relationships with manufacturers.

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