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Abstract

Background  Rosacea is a skin problem not uncommonly encountered world-wide. There is a need for an effective and well-tolerated treatment for this disease.

Objective  To evaluate the efficacy and side-effects of zinc sulfate in rosacea in a randomized, controlled, double-blind trial.

Patients and methods  Patients with rosacea who attended the outpatient Clinic of Dermatology and Venereology in Baghdad Teaching Hospital were recruited into this study between October 2002 and August 2004. A disease severity score was calculated for each patient. The patients were randomly allocated to receive either zinc sulfate 100 mg or identical placebo capsules three times per day. Zinc sulfate and placebo capsules were given in a double-blind manner. Following 3 months of starting the treatment, the patients crossed over, i.e. patients on placebo crossed over to zinc sulfate and those on zinc sulfate crossed over to placebo.

Results  Twenty-five patients with rosacea were included in this study: 16 (64%) females and nine (36%) males. Nineteen patients completed the study: 11 (58%) females and eight (42%) males. Patient age ranged from 21 to 64 years with a mean ± SD of 48.2 ± 9.3 years. Duration of the disease ranged from 1 to 14 years with a mean ± SD of 4.4 ± 3.2 years. In the group started on zinc sulfate, the score before therapy ranged from 5 to 11 with a mean ± SD of 8 ± 2.0. The mean started to decrease directly after the first month of therapy with zinc sulfate to a significantly lower level. After shifting to placebo treatment, the mean started to rise gradually in the fifth month but remained significantly lower than the levels before therapy. In the group started on placebo, the score before therapy ranged from 5 to 9 with a mean ± SD of 7 ± 1.3. The mean remained high in the first 3 months of therapy while the patients were on placebo. After shifting to zinc sulfate, the mean started to decrease after the fourth month to significantly low levels. No important side-effects were reported apart from mild gastric upset in three (12%) patients on zinc sulfate.

Conclusion  Zinc sulfate was found to be a good option in the treatment of rosacea, as it was safe, effective and lacking important side-effects.