What is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a skin condition where your face tends to appear red and inflamed with periods of worsening and improvement over months to years. Individuals with rosacea may flush easily or develop what looks like acne breakouts. It can occur in all ages or ethnicities but tends to be most common in white, middle-aged adults.

How is Rosacea Diagnosed?

Dermatologists are trained to recognize and treat patients with rosacea. There are four recognized types of rosacea that have different clinical features. These include:

  • Acne rosacea (breakouts, pimples, redness)
  • Vascular rosacea (enlarged facial blood vessels)
  • Ocular rosacea (dry eyes, red eyes, eyelid swelling, multiple styes)
  • Rhinophyma (thickening of the skin, especially the nose, enlarged pores)

You may have just one or several types of rosacea concurrently. If you believe you may have symptoms of rosacea, you should make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

What causes Rosacea?

Massive research efforts have identified several abnormalities in inflammatory pathways in the skin that are linked to the development of rosacea. It is now believed that patients with rosacea have an exuberant inflammatory response to environmental stimuli leading to rosacea. Essentially, rosacea skin over-reacts to normal stimuli leading to redness, flushing and inflammatory bumps. A mite that lives on everyone’s skin, demodex, may play a role in increasing inflammation in the skin and is more numerous in patients with rosacea. Rosacea tends to run in families as patients with rosacea have affected family members.

How Common is Rosacea?

Rosacea is extremely common with an estimated 14 million Americans suffering from the condition. Some notable sufferers include President Bill Clinton, JP Morgan, W.C. Fields, Rembrandt, Rosie O’Donnell, Santa Claus and Rudolph.

Is Rosacea the Same as Adult Acne?

No. In fact, many over the counter acne medications will worsen rosacea. The diagnosis of rosacea is best made by a dermatologist.

Are Rosacea Sufferers More Likely to Abuse Alcohol?

No. For centuries a bulbous, enlarged and red nose was interpreted as a sign of alcoholism. We now know that rhinophyma, gross enlargement of the oil glands in the nose, is a common feature of rosacea. Patients with rosacea are no more likely than the general public to suffer from alcoholism. While alcohol may lead to flushing directly following consumption, this is because alcohol can trigger rosacea in an individual who is already susceptible to the development of rosacea. Alcohol itself is never the sole cause of rosacea.

How do I Cure my Rosacea?

There is no cure for rosacea. Medical and surgical therapies are available for patients in order to suppress rosacea flares. Treatments most commonly include topical and sometimes oral antibiotics. Patients with enlarged vessels or telangiectasias typically respond very well to laser treatments. Rhinophyma, thickening of the nasal skin, may be amendable to surgical correction. Treatment by a dermatologist is best initiated early since once rosacea progresses it can be difficult to control.

What can I do to Improve my Rosacea?

The most important factor in preventing a flare in rosacea is sun protection. Patients with rosacea have sensitive skin that most commonly flares following sun exposure. Following exposure the skin tends to stay red much longer than would be expected from a typical sunburn. The use of a zinc oxide containing sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 must be used 365 days a year. Regular use will limit flares and disease progression in all types of rosacea. In addition, several formulations are made specifically for rosacea and are tinted-green in order to minimize the appearance of red skin. In addition it is important to learn what triggers your rosacea. Some common triggers include, in addition to sunlight, stress, foods and beverages. Patients should avoid known triggers to their rosacea.