Rosacea is a common, chronic skin condition that affects over 14 million Americans, many of whom are unaware that they have the condition. Rosacea appears on the skin of the face as areas of redness and small, pus-filled bumps similar to acne, and can affect a patient's confidence and self-esteem. Although rosacea is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, there are several treatments available to relieve symptoms and prevent flare ups, allowing patients to avoid embarrassment.
Cause of Rosacea
While the specific cause of rosacea is unknown, it is believed to be a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.
Symptoms can also be triggered by certain factors, including:
- Hot or spicy foods
- Extreme temperatures
- Strenuous exercise
- Certain medications
Rosacea can affect anyone, but is most common in fair-skinned adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. Women are more affected by this condition than men, since it is often associated with menopause. When diagnosing rosacea, your doctor will consider your personal and medical history, as well as perform a physical examination of the skin.
Symptoms of Rosacea
Patients with rosacea may experience:
- Small red bumps or pustules
- Visible blood vessels
- Flushing or blushing easily
- Burning or stinging of the facial skin
- Dry, irritated eyes
Symptoms most commonly appear on the nose, cheeks, mouth and forehead. Some patients may also experience thickened skin, raised red patches, facial swelling and symptoms spreading to the neck, chest, scalp or ears. The symptoms of rosacea can come and go, as this condition is cyclic for most patients, meaning that symptoms will flare up for period of weeks to months and then lessen for a while.
Since rosacea is a progressive condition, symptoms tend to worsen as the disease progresses, and can be classified into three different phases. Pre-rosacea symptoms often begin with frequent flushing or blushing, and then progress to a persistent redness on the face. Vascular rosacea symptoms refer to swelling of the small blood vessels around the nose and cheeks, a condition known as telangiectasia. Oily skin and dandruff are also common during this phase. Inflammatory rosacea is when the small bumps or pustules begin to develop and spread across the nose, cheeks, forehead and chin. If left untreated, symptoms will continue to worsen and may cause permanent skin damage.
Treatment of Rosacea
While there is no cure for rosacea, there are several treatments available to help control symptoms and allow patients to enjoy their lives without constantly worrying about the appearance of their skin. The most effective treatment for rosacea depends on each patient's individual case, but usually includes a combination of prescription treatment and life changes.
Medication for rosacea may include topical ointments that are applied to the skin once or twice a day, as well as oral antibiotics to relieve the inflammatory symptoms of the condition. Your doctor may also prescribe Accutane (isotretinoin), a powerful oral medication usually used for severe cases of acne, which can help severe symptoms of rosacea by limiting oil production by the sebaceous glands.
Treatment for rosacea may be long-term, but most patients notice an improvement to their symptoms within one to two months. Patients can reduce the risk of flare ups by identifying certain triggers that lead to flare ups, and then trying to avoid them. Flare ups can also be reduced by wearing sunscreen, protecting the eyes and providing gentle but thorough care for your skin. If permanent skin damage has occurred as a result of rosacea, advanced treatments such as dermabrasion, cryosurgery or laser surgery may be performed to improve the appearance of the skin.