Rosacea is a very common yet poorly understood inflammatory condition of the skin. Most often, it affects the skin of the face, predominantly nose and cheeks, although some patients might experience redness to the skin of the neck, chest and upper back as well.
There are four different subtypes of rosacea:
Erythematotelangectatic: This is the common flushing or persistent redness that most people often think about with rosacea. There might also be small, permanently dilated blood vessels called telangectasias.
Papulopustular: A patient will often refer to this as adult acne, as this type consists of red papules and pustules often seen in acne patients.
Phymatous: A more rare subtype of rosacea, in which the skin thickens and swells. Men are more likely to experience this type of rosacea than females.
Ocular: This subtype typically causes watery or blood-shot eyes, a burning or stinging sensation, and dryness or light sensitivity.
There is no clear answer yet as to the cause of rosacea. There appears to be a combination of both hereditary and environmental factors that play a role.
Some of these factors might include a family history of the condition, a possible inflammatory reaction of the immune system, or redness and swelling developing due to a defect in a protein found in the skin.
Some recent studies suggest that Demodex, a skin mite found on everyone’s skin, are increased in numbers on the cheeks and nose of persons with rosacea.
There are certain risk factors that might increase a person’s probability of developing the condition. These include but are not limited to fair skin population (Celtic or northern European background), age between 30 and 60 years, and family history of the condition. Additionally, women are slightly more likely to develop rosacea than men.
Certain triggers might cause rosacea to flare. Some common triggers include certain dairy products, alcoholic beverages, hot drinks, stress or hot and spicy foods.
Weather might exacerbate the condition as well, such as excessive heat or cold, or even a very windy or humid day.
The key is to recognize the trigger that affects the individual, as not everyone will flare to the same trigger.
Although this condition has no cure, a person’s symptoms can be controlled. Recognizing triggers and controlling what you can in these areas can be helpful.
Gentle and consistent skin care can limit further irritation to the skin. Non-soap cleansers are beneficial, as they do not strip the skin of essential oils.
Regular use of sunscreen can protect against further skin damage, and emollient moisturizers help protect the skin barrier.
Finally, following long-term medical therapy as prescribed by your dermatologist will limit flares and progression of the disease. A prescription plan might include both topical as well as oral medications aimed at reducing inflammation.
Overall, rosacea is a manageable condition that afflicts many patients. Talk with your dermatologist if you suspect you might have rosacea, as the earlier you begin to manage the symptoms, the better your outcome.
Kristina A. Ford, MS, PA-C is an associate with May River Dermatology.