Rosacea ... More Than a Red Face
Rosacea affects 14 million adults in the U.S., but only 1 in 4 people have even heard of it.
It's pronounced row-ZAY-shuh. A National RosaceaRosacea
Society poll shows that three out of four Americans never heard about this
common skin problem. Yet it affects 14 million U.S. men and women. Left
untreated, rosacea can become disfiguring. W.C. Fields' bulbous nose was due to
Rosacea is not something you catch. Rosacea usually doesn't
appear before age 30 and can run in families. It's most common in people who
blush or flush easily. People tend not to recognize rosacea because it develops
gradually. After a while, they begin to think they just flush easily, or that
they're having periodic acneacne
Rosacea starts as redness on the cheeks, nose, chin, or
forehead (and less often on the neck, scalp, chest, or ears). At first, rosacea
comes and goes. After a while, the redness deepens and lasts longer. Visible
blood vessels appear in the skin. If not treated, pimples and bumps develop.
The nose may become large and bumpy as tissue builds up. And rosacea sometimes
affects the eyes, making them irritated, watery, and bloodshot.
"Rosacea tends to be more frequent in certain ethnic
groups," dermatologist Julie Anne Winfield of Mill Valley, Calif., tells
WebMD. One survey by the National Rosacea Society found that 33% of respondents
reported having at least one parent of Irish heritage, and 27% had a parent of
English descent. Other ethnic groups with higher rates of rosacea included
people of Scandinavian, Scottish, Welsh, or eastern European descent.
There's no cure for rosacea. But treatment -- especially when
begun in the early stages -- can work wonders.
"Fortunately, there are some very good treatment
options," Winfield says. "The bottom-line message is this: There is
real hope out there for people with rosacea."
The first step in treating rosacea is lifestyle change. Though
rosacea is genetic in nature, there are lots of "triggers" that make it
worse. Avoid common triggers listed here.
- Sun exposure: Everyone should avoid too much sun, but people with rosacea
are particularly sensitive. They should be sure to apply sun block to the face
when going outdoors. But take care! Skin affected by rosacea is very sensitive
to chemicals. Use a quality sun block that doesn't irritate the skin.
Flushing increases when you're under stress. Learn relaxation techniques such
as deep breathing.
- Alcohol: Alcohol doesn't cause rosacea, but it does dilate blood vessels in
the face. That makes rosacea worse.
- Spicy foods: Heavily spiced foods cause flushing and worsen rosacea.
- Cosmetics: Makeup, cleansers, lotions, and even some moisturizers can
irritate the skin. Use only products that are non-irritating, hypoallergenic,
The first-line medical treatment is antibiotics. Doctors
usually start by prescribing topical metronidazole in cream or gel form. Other
topical antibiotics may be used as well. Oral antibiotics also work. Doctors
usually start with tetracycline or minocycline.
Other topical treatments include azelaic acid, retinoic acid,
and even vitamin C preparations.
In more advanced cases -- or if antibiotics don't do the job --
doctors often prescribe the acne treatments Accutane or Sotret. These can work
very well. But they can cause birth defects, so women who take them must be
prepared to use effective birth controlbirth
Doctors can use lasers, pulsed light, and other surgical
devices to remove visible blood vessels and reduce redness. Cosmetic surgery
can correct a disfigured nose.