We’ve all experienced skin irritation at some point in our life: itchiness or dryness for no apparent reason, the occasional untimely breakout courtesy of hormone fluctuation; a mysterious rash by way of unknown allergen exposure. For some people, these are simply infrequent, short-lived nuisances. However, if you are someone who suffers from a chronic skin condition, you know how very frustrating and uncomfortable – both mentally and physically – it can be.
“Rosacea is one of those challenging skin conditions that can really affect a person’s quality of life,” says Summit Health dermatologist Dr. Andrew Jensen. “And it can be hard to diagnose because other skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and allergic reactions present with similar findings.”
Characterized by a redness of the skin, typically on the face, that resembles a deep blush, rosacea is a common and chronic skin condition. While there is no definitive cure for rosacea, there are several treatment options that can reduce redness and lessen those unpredictable flare-ups that can have both a clinical and emotional impact.
Below, Dr. Jensen provides a detailed overview of rosacea, including its causes, symptoms, and effective treatments.
Is rosacea common?
Yes, rosacea is common. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, rosacea affects 14 million adults in the U.S. and 415 million people globally. However, it is often overlooked and undiagnosed because its symptoms overlap with other common conditions such as acne.
Individuals who present with rosacea are generally between the ages of 30 and 50, fair-skinned and light-eyed, and have a family history of the condition. Rosacea is more common in women than in men.
What are the symptoms of rosacea?
Rosacea causes persistent redness or visible blood vessels, typically on your cheeks, nose, and chin. It can also present with small red bumps. Some people also experience dry eyes and inflamed eyelids. Severe forms of rosacea can cause thickening of the skin of the nose called rhinophyma.
What causes rosacea?
Scientists and health professionals are still uncertain as to what causes rosacea, but it appears to run in families. Hormonal factors, the immune system, and environmental factors (sunlight, wind, and temperature extremes) may play a role.
Can certain foods/environments make rosacea worse?
Rosacea can be triggered by the sun, extreme temperatures, spicy food, alcohol, stress/anxiety, and irritating skin products. In some people, exercise and hot showers cause flare-ups as well.
What are the treatments for rosacea?
While there is no cure, there are treatments that can control redness and inflammation. Topical anti-inflammatory creams can reduce background redness and are typically the first treatment recommended by dermatologists. Oral medications, including antibiotics, can help treat bumpy rosacea. Laser treatments, including the pulsed dye laser, can target both background redness and stubborn broken blood vessels.
Maintenance treatments are required over time and the use of sunscreen reduces the formation of new redness.
Can complications arise from untreated rosacea?
If bumpy rosacea is severe, it can cause cysts which can leave scars. Thickened skin of the nose, referred to as rhinophyma, is also the result of chronic and untreated rosacea. Fortunately, most patients can be treated for rosacea in a manner that reduces blotchy redness, minimizes outbreaks, and reduces social anxiety/embarrassment.
At-Home Skin Care Tips:
There are several self-care practices that can help control rosacea.
Be careful with makeup – Covering up blemishes may help with confidence in the short term, but it is not the best long-term solution. Some makeup can cause skin irritation and worsen rosacea.
Wear sunscreen daily – Protecting your skin from the sun year-round is important for many reasons. SPF 30 in a daily product, stepped up to SPF 50 in the summer, can reduce redness and minimize sun damage.
Cleanse and moisturize daily – Gentle cleansers are better than harsh products or astringents in rosacea-prone skin. Less can be more when one is prone to redness.
Know your diet – Certain foods can predictably cause rosacea flare-ups in certain people. Knowing one’s triggers, for example, red wine in some people can reduce episodes.
Skin conditions are not just physically noticeable. They have both a clinical and social/emotional impact. If you have rosacea or another skin condition that is making you uncomfortable, talk to your physician. Summit Health dermatologists can diagnose and treat a variety of skin conditions, including rashes, acne, rosacea, moles, eczema, and much more.