Rosacea, also referred to as acne rosacea, is a mysterious and chronic disorder of the skin. The condition involves inflammation of the cheeks, nose, chin, forehead, and/or eyelids. It may appear as redness, prominent spider-like blood vessels, swelling or skin eruptions similar to acne. The cause of the disease is unknown, but you are more likely to develop rosacea if you are fair-skinned, if you are a woman (although it is more severe in men), if you blush easily and if you are between the ages of 30-50. Other risk factors include menopause, Northern Europe and Celtic heritage and a family history for rosacea. It is quite harmless and also very common. Approximately 14 million Americans have acne rosacea. As a matter of fact, I was diagnosed with the condition just after my first son was born (age 33).
The symptoms of acne rosacea include:
- Redness of the face in discrete areas or covering the entire face
- A tendency to flush or blush easily
- Increased number of spider-like blood vessels (telangiectasia) of the face
- A red, bulbous nose
- Acne-like skin eruptions (may ooze or crust)
- A burning or stinging sensation of the face
- Irritated, bloodshot, watery eyes
My main symptoms when I have a flare-up with this condition are a reddened face, particularly over my cheeks, and itching of the skin.
Your physician can usually diagnose rosacea with a thorough medical history and physical exam. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for acne rosacea. The goal is to identify and avoid possible triggers, and thus reduce flare-ups. By keeping a symptom diary to identify the specific triggers you may have, you most likely will see a pattern of what makes your rosacea worse. Use this information to avoid future flare-ups. Tips that might help the rosacea sufferer include avoiding sun exposure and use sunscreen every day, avoid prolonged exertion in hot weather, try to reduce stress by deep breathing, practicing yoga or other relaxation techniques and limit spicy foods, alcohol and hot beverages. Triggers vary from person to person. Other triggers might include wind, hot baths, cold weather, specific skin products, exercise or other factors.
The treatment for acne rosacea include antibiotics taken by mouth (such as tetracycline, minocycline, or doxycycline) or applied to the skin (such as metronidazole) to control skin eruptions. Other medications (isoretinol or Accutane), which are similar to vitamin A, are stronger alternatives that your doctor or dermatologist might consider. Rosacea is not acne and will not improve with over-the-counter acne treatment. In severe cases, laser surgery may help reduce the redness. The only real complication of this disorder is psychological – loss of self esteem – due to a permanent change, such as a bulbous nose. Surgical reduction of enlarged nose tissue will improve your appearance, if you so choose.
The good news about this mysterious skin disorder is that it is not medically dangerous. It is not curable, but can usually be controlled with the above mentioned treatments. It may be persistent and chronic, and acne rosacea may be mistaken for rosy cheeks, sunburn or acne. Left untreated, it can cause a bulbous red nose (like W.C. Fields) which can be bothersome and embarrassing. Prompt recognition and proper treatment permit people with this disease to enjoy a very normal life.