A chronic, inflammatory skin condition, rosacea affects more than 16 million Americans. Rosacea manifests itself as redness on the face that produces small, pus-filled bumps or pustules. Although rosacea is not contagious, some evidence suggests a genetic link to the condition.
Usually, most people first develop rosacea in their 30’s and then live with continuous cycles of flare-ups and dormancy. Without treatment, rosacea can have a negative impact on a person’s emotional, psychological and physical health.
The exact cause of rosacea has not been identified, but the environment and genetics may play a role. If you have light skin, a family history of rosacea or experience frequent blushing, you may have an increased tendency toward developing rosacea. More women than men tend to have rosacea but men experience more severe symptoms.
Certain factors can aggravate rosacea by increasing blood flow including:
- Harsh soaps or abrasive cleanser
- Extremes in temperature
- Exposure to sun
- Hot baths and saunas
- Medications that dilate blood vessels, including certain blood pressure medications
- Spicy foods
- Stress, anger or embarrassment
- Very hot foods or beverages
- Vigorous exercise
Common signs of rosacea are:
- Blushing or flushing easily
- Red areas on the face
- Small, red bumps on the forehead, cheeks, nose and chin
- Swollen, red nose
- Tiny blood vessels visible on the nose and cheeks
Phases of Rosacea
Usually, rosacea appears in three phases:
Often, pre-rosacea begins as a tendency to flush or blush easily.
- Vascular rosacea
As symptoms worsen, small blood vessels on the nose and cheeks enlarge and become more apparent.
- Inflammatory rosacea
With inflammatory rosacea the red bumps or pustules develop and persist, spreading across the forehead, nose, cheeks and chin.
No cure exists for rosacea, but certain soaps, moisturizers, sunscreens and other products can improve the condition of your skin. Several medications can help treat rosacea, such as:
- Topical medicines to reduce redness and swelling
- Oral antibiotics to lessen inflammation
- Isotretinoin (Accutane) when other methods fail
- Intense pulsed light (photo-rejuvenation)
- During the remission periods, most patients only need topical medications
You can reduce irritation and limit the chance of flare-ups by using mild cleansers, choosing soft cloths, rinsing with lukewarm water, and patting your face dry. Anyone with rosacea needs to take care while out in the sun and apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.