Rosacea (“roh-ZAY-sha”) is a skin condition that mainly affects the cheeks, chin, nose and forehead. It is a chronic condition with flareups and remissions but is treatable. Rosacea must be diagnosed by a doctor, preferably a dermatologist. It usually starts mild, looking like someone is flushed or blushing. The redness may become more persistent and visible broken blood vessels may appear. If left untreated, small pimples and bumps may develop and lead to thickening of the skin, especially for men on the nose (rhinophyma). Sometimes rosacea will affect the eyes, making them bloodshot and irritated.
Rosacea typically begins after age 30 and is found more often in women, but men tend to have more severe cases. There is an environmental and hereditary component to acquiring rosacea. It tends to occur in fair-skinned individuals, mainly of northern and eastern European descent. Since it is on the face, people with rosacea report having low self-esteem and decreasing social and professional interactions.
Rosacea affects people differently, with varying symptoms, and requires a personalized treatment plan. The main signs of rosacea are persistent redness and thickening of the skin. Other signs may include flushing, bumps and pimples, visible blood vessels and eye irritation. Secondary symptoms include burning or stinging, swelling and dryness.
The cause of rosacea is unknown. Some possible causes have included problems with the immune system and facial blood vessels. However, many environmental factors are known to increase the severity of the condition.
Rosacea is treated with a variety of oral and topical medications that are specific to each individual. Medications to control the redness and diminish bumps and pimples are followed by long-term anti-inflammatory therapy to maintain remission. Ophthalmic therapy may be used to treat rosacea affecting the eyes. Laser and other medical and surgical therapies may be used to correct visible blood vessels or disfigurement of the nose.
Along with long-term medical therapy, people with rosacea need to develop a gentle skin-care regimen and procedures to protect their skin from sun exposure. Green makeup may be used to hide the effects of rosacea. As well, people with rosacea need to become aware of the lifestyle and environmental triggers that cause flareups of their condition. The use of a daily journal to keep track of flareups is a good way to identify one’s triggers. Some triggers that contribute to flareups include:
- hot drinks
- spicy foods
- citrus fruits
- alcohol, especially red wine
- excessively hot or cold temperatures
- exposure to sunlight or wind
- stress or anxiety
- intense exercise
- some types of makeup
- some medications or medical conditions
Different people have different triggers, and each person must recognize their triggers. Individuals with rosacea can control their symptoms and outbreaks by using medical therapies and awareness of environmental and lifestyle triggers. These will lead to improved emotional and social well-being and a return to a normal lifestyle.