Rosacea is a common disorder that mainly affects skin on the face. It causes redness on the nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead. Over time, the redness can become more intense, taking on a ruddy appearance. Blood vessels may become visible.
In some cases, rosacea appears on the chest, back, or neck. It can affect the eyes, causing them to feel irritated and to appear bloodshot or watery. People with rosacea can also develop red solid bumps and pus-filled pimples. The disorder can cause the nose to take on a bulbous, swollen appearance called rhinophyma.
Causes of Rosacea
The cause of rosacea is not known, but elements of the disease process have been identified. One theory is that rosacea may be due to a disorder of the neurovascular system (nerves, veins, arteries) or the immune system. A microscopic skin mite called Demodex is more abundant where there is rosacea and may contribute to the condition. Studies have suggested a genetic connection between rosacea and other serious health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular and intestinal diseases.
What Are the Risk Factors for Rosacea?
Rosacea affects an estimated 16 million Americans -- most of them don't know they have it. Symptoms can come and go, so many people with rosacea think they’ve got acne or a sunburn.
People who have fair skin and who tend to blush easily may be at a higher risk for the disorder. Rosacea appears more often among women, but men tend to have the more severe symptoms. A possible reason for this could be that men generally delay medical treatment until rosacea becomes advanced.
Is There a Cure for Rosacea?
While there is no cure for rosacea, medical therapy is available to control or reverse the signs and symptoms. If you suspect that you have rosacea, consult your doctor.
What Are the Symptoms of Rosacea?
Rosacea's appearance can vary greatly from one individual to another. Most of the time, not all of the potential signs and symptoms appear. Rosacea always includes at least one of the primary signs listed below. Various secondary signs and symptoms may also develop.
Primary signs of rosacea include:
- Flushing. Many people who have rosacea have a history of frequent blushing or flushing. The facial redness, which may come and go, often is the earliest sign of the disorder.
- Persistent redness. Persistent facial redness may resemble a blush or sunburn that does not go away.
- Bumps and pimples. Small red solid bumps or pus-filled pimples often develop in rosacea. Sometimes the bumps may resemble acne, but blackheads are absent. The skin might be oily and sensitive. Burning or stinging may also be present.
- Visible blood vessels. Small blood vessels become visible on the skin of many people who have rosacea.
Other potential signs and symptoms include:
- Eye irritation. The eyes may be irritated and appear watery or bloodshot in some people with rosacea. This condition, called ocular rosacea, can also cause styes as well as redness and swelling of the eyelids. People often say it feels like having grit or sand in your eyes. If you have another type of rosacea, it’s important to watch for symptoms of ocular rosacea. Severe cases, if left untreated, can result in corneal damage and vision loss.
- Burning or stinging. Burning or stinging sensations may occur on the face and itchiness or a feeling of tightness may also develop.
- Dry appearance. The central facial skin may be rough, and thus appear to be very dry.
- Plaques. Raised red patches may develop without changes in the surrounding skin.
- Skin thickening. In some cases of rosacea, the skin may thicken and enlarge from excess tissue, resulting in a condition called rhinophyma. This condition often occurs on the nose, causing it to have a bulbous appearance.
- Swelling. Facial swelling can occur independently or can accompany other signs of rosacea.
Signs and symptoms of rosacea may develop beyond the face, affecting areas including the neck, chest, or ears.
How Is Rosacea Diagnosed?
Your doctor will conduct a thorough exam of signs and symptoms and will ask questions about your medical history. Tell your doctor about any problems you are having with your face (redness, bumps or pimples, burning, itching, etc.). There is no specific test to diagnose rosacea.
How Is Rosacea Treated?
Rosacea treatment may vary depending on a person's signs and symptoms. Treatments used for rosacea include:
- Medications. Sometimes, doctors prescribe oral and topical medications to treat the disorder's associated bumps, pimples, and redness. Medications can bring the condition under control and keep it in remission (the disappearance of signs and symptoms).
- Surgical procedures. Doctors can remove visible blood vessels, limit the amount of extensive redness on the face, or correct nose disfigurement in some cases.
Can Rosacea Be Prevented?
While there is no way to prevent the condition, rosacea sufferers can improve their chances of maintaining remission by identifying and avoiding lifestyle and environmental factors that trigger rosacea flare-ups. Some triggers include:
- Sun/wind exposure
- Emotional stress
- Hot/cold weather
- Heavy exercise
- Alcohol consumption, especially red wine
- Hot beverages and foods
- Spicy foods
When Should You See Your Doctor?
If you have any rosacea symptoms, see your doctor. Early treatment can ease symptoms and prevent rosacea from getting worse.