Rosacea is a common skin condition that mainly affects the face of women in their middle age. It is sometimes referred to as adult acne. It is unknown what causes rosacea but it affects people around the world, causing more psychological symptoms due to its cosmetic effects than physical harm.
Definition & Facts
In the United States, approximately 16 million people have rosacea. Worldwide the total reaches 45 million. Light-skinned adults are the demographic most affected by this skin disorder. Although there is no known cure for rosacea, the symptoms can be controlled in most cases through a combination of prescription creams and medication, cosmetic therapies, and lifestyle changes such as diet and stress reduction.
The majority of people who have this skin problem may think that they just have sensitive skin. The sooner it is identified as rosacea, the sooner the condition may be addressed and symptoms abated. It is mainly the central part of the face that is affected - the cheeks, the bottom half of the nose, the forehead, and the chin.
Though rosacea is not considered to be harmful to one's health, many individuals with rosacea find that the skin disorder affects their self-esteem and body image. The consequences of this include staying inside more and avoiding being in public as much as possible which engenders lost productivity and reduced quality of life.
Symptoms & Complaints
- Facial redness that appears on the cheeks and lower part of the nose first and later spreads to the forehead and chin
- Bumps on the face that resemble acne and that may contain pus
- Skin that burns and stings
- Thickening skin that appears around the nose first
- Painful skin, swollen skin, dry skin, scaly skin, rough skin, or itchy skin
- Broken blood vessels that are small, but visible on the face
- Watery eyes, eye pain, eye redness, itchy eye, blurred vision, dry eyes, eye irritation, eye swelling, or sensitivity to light
- Rashes or raised patches of skin
- Skin that overreacts to skin care products and the sun
- Skin that feels sweaty or hot
- Skin that has a bumpy texture
- Facial flushing
There are no known causes for rosacea though in their study of this skin problem, scientists have developed theories. It's possible that rosacea is an autoimmune disorder in which the body overreacts to what it perceives as a foreign invader and ends up attacking and inflaming its own tissues. Rosacea may be the immune system's overreaction to a bacterium. It is possible that a protein, cathelicidin whose normal job is to protect the skin actually causes the redness and swelling. Rosacea may also be hereditary. Those with this problem have other members in their family who also have the same problem.
Doctors have identified numerous factors that can trigger rosacea and make it worse. Some of the most well-known triggers that make rosacea worse are:
- Psychological stress or anger
- Sun exposure
- Hot temperatures
- Some corticosteroids
- Hot saunas or baths
- Certain foods
Diagnosis & Tests
The difficulty in diagnosing rosacea is that doctors have to work with the symptoms that a patient has at the time of the appointment, and symptoms often come and go. Sometimes symptoms are very obvious, and other times they may not be noticeable at all. Another difficulty in diagnosing rosacea is the fact that many other skin conditions look very similar.
Most dermatologists diagnose this skin problem by performing a physical examination, interviewing the patient, and asking about their experience with specific symptoms. With this information, they do the best they can to come up with an individualized plan of action.
Blood tests are sometimes used to discard the possibility of other illnesses that have similar characteristics. Some dermatologists do a skin scraping to exclude the presence of mites on the skin as a possible cause of symptoms.
Treatment & Therapy
The extreme redness and facial flushing of rosacea can be controlled with prescription therapy. Dermatologists use certain medicines, such as antibiotics, topical creams and antibacterial washes, to treat possible infection and reduce inflammation. There are side effects from antibiotics such as nausea, diarrhea, and yeast infections.
Intense pulsed light therapy helps reduce acute redness and visible blood vessels. It normally takes several sessions to get the problem under control. Since the underlying skin problem does not go away, touch up sessions may be needed from time to time as flare ups occur. Lasers can also help remove skin buildup around the nose, making the skin smoother and providing cosmetic benefits to the patient.
Dermatologists encourage patients to take note of triggers that cause the redness to worsen, and to remove those triggers from their diet or environment. Foods that cause allergies or that are triggers should be eliminated from the diet. One should eliminate processed food and refined sugar from the diet.
There are natural remedies that some people have successfully used to control rosacea. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be eaten as often as possible. A natural moisturizer, like coconut oil or aloe vera gel, helps to soften and hydrate the skin, considerably reducing the symptoms of rosacea.
Most dermatologists recommend that people with rosacea use sunscreen every day. Sunscreens that protect against both UV-A and UV-B rays should be selected. The doctor may indicate other ingredients in the sunscreen that he or she believes are necessary for the patient's protection.
Prevention & Prophylaxis
- Use sunscreen when out in the sun
- Boost one's immune system and eat a healthy diet free from harmful foods
- Avoid stress as much as possible
- Use natural, moisturizing creams and makeup
- Avoid cleaning the face with harsh cleansers. Cleansers with alcohol and peppermint may exacerbate rosacea symptoms.
- Use an essential oil that helps sensitive skin and that is a natural anti-inflammatory
Whether or not these preventative methods can definitively prevent rosacea is unknown, but they may help control the symptoms.