Rosacea is a condition, which only affects the skin. It causes persistent or recurring inflammation, mostly of the skin on the face, and it often has a similar pattern on either side of the nose. Occasionally, the skin will become inflamed elsewhere on the body, for example on the chest or back. The exact cause of rosacea is unknown; however, it is thought to be due to a problem with the tiny blood vessels, which supply the skin. In some people, roascea seems to be part of a more general disorder of blood vessels. This also causes migraine headaches brought on by changes in blood flow in the brain.
Over use of a steroid cream on the face to treat some other skin problem may cause rosacea, due to damage to some of the blood vessels.
Because the rash in rosacea often includes spots that look like ordinary acne, and because most sufferers are between the ages of 30 and 50, rosacea has been described as ‘adult acne’. But, in fact, there is no connection between acne and rosacea. Rosacea typically starts during the teen years, with occasional attacks of intense flushing of the skin around the nose, cheeks, chin and ears. This often happens more in embarrassing or anxious situations or while eating hot or spicy food.
During the early twenties, these flushing attacks tend to become worse and cover a wider area of skin. The affected skin will often feel burnt. In mild cases of rosacea, each attack only lasts for a few minutes and the skin returns to normal in between attacks. However, some rosacea sufferers develop a persistently red face, which is especially noticeable on the forehead, checks and nose. The rash can also extend to the scalp and down to the chin and neck.
Once into their thirties, people with rosacea will usually start to notice the appearance of papules (small raised bumps) and pustules (small white blisters filled with pus), in addition to redness. These crops of papules and pustules, which look like bad acne, tend to come and go. Other symptoms of more severe rosacea can include painful eye irritation, blood-shot eyes, swelling of the face and tiny spidery blood vessels visible under the skin.
Occasionally, rosacea causes unsightly bumps on the nose, a problem which doctors call rhinophyma. This often starts with the tip of the nose going red, but the redness may spread to the rest of the nose, which may turn a bright or purplish-red. In addition, the skin over the nose may thicken to become coarse and irregular and may become very oily. Rhinophyma is sometimes the only sign of rosacea. It affects more women than men, with as many as one in 10 middle-aged women suffering from mild symptoms.
The risk of rosacea is greater if you are fair skinned. Certain factors are known or thought to make rosacea worse, at least in some sufferers. Avoiding particular foods, drinks and any situation that tends to trigger a flushing attack can be a great help in controlling unpleasant symptoms and complications.
- Avoid any food or drink that is too hot or too cold.
- Avoid oil-based cosmetic products.
- Avoid too much exposure to the sun, strong winds and extremes or sudden changes in temperature.
- Change to decaffeinated tea and coffee, and caffeine-free cola.
- Take steps to reduce any build-up of stress in your life. So take up sports and hobbies, or try regular relaxation exercises.
Because rosacea tends to run in families, many people mistakenly believe that their reddish complexion is simply a family characteristic that they must learn to live with, rather than a skin disorder that can be effectively treated. Anyone with symptoms of rosacea should see their doctor, however mild those symptoms might be. Don’t wait for the appearance of damaged blood vessels or a swollen nose. There are treatments available which not only clear the skin, but also help prevent more serious problems from developing. Remember, without proper treatment, rosacea may worsen and cause permanent damage to the skin.
Treatment for Rosecea
Antibiotic treatments (either orally or topically) are the most commonly prescribed medicines. Topical treatments are also an effective way of controlling rosecea.
Menopausal flushing, which sometimes affects women in their late forties and early fifties, can make rosacea worse, in which case other medicines to control this flushing may be prescribed, e.g. HRT.
Unfortunately, there is no drug treatment which will help enlargement and deformity of the nose. In bad cases, some form of cosmetic surgery may be necessary to restore the nose to a satisfactory shape. Antibiotics will suppress the symptoms of rosacea. Within a few days of starting treatment, the number of papules and pustules on the face will be reduced, and any irritation of the eyes will be soothed. Also, the antibiotic treatment will help prevent permanent skin damage. Topical antibiotic also helps to prevent it and can be used for a prolonged period without any side effects.
Good news for rosacea sufferers
Rosacea can be unsightly, but the good news is that it can be controlled effectively through self-help methods and consulting a dermatologist promptly for oral or topical antibiotic treatment any time your rash flares up. Even better news – rosacea may eventually burn itself out, so that further treatment is no longer required.