February 14, 2012
Rosacea is a common but poorly understood chronic (long-term) skin condition that mainly affects the face. Symptoms begin with episodes of flushing (when the skin turns red). People with rosacea may experience spots and persistent redness of their skin. Small blood vessels in the skin can become visible. In the most severe cases, the skin can thicken and enlarge, usually on and around the nose. There is no cure for rosacea, but treatments are available to control the symptoms.
Rosacea most commonly affects fair-skinned people from northern Europe and is estimated to affect up to 1 in 10 people. Rosacea affects twice as many women as men, although it is usually more serious in men. The symptoms usually begin between the ages of 30 and 50.
Identifying and avoiding the triggers of rosacea can be a useful way of controlling the symptoms.
As well as avoiding the triggers, you can control the symptoms of rosacea by using a number of different medicines. Rosacea is a relapsing condition, which means that it will keep returning. People with rosacea will have periods when their symptoms are particularly bad, followed by periods when the condition is less severe. However, most cases of rosacea can be effectively controlled with medication.
These symptoms are explained below.
Flushing (when your skin turns red) is usually the first sign of rosacea. Episodes of flushing can last up for up to five minutes. The flush can spread to your neck and chest, and you may experience an unpleasant feeling of heat.
With rosacea, episodes of flushing are sometimes followed by episodes of persistent facial redness. This redness is like a flush or a patch of sunburn that does not go away.
If you have rosacea, you may develop: Papules: round red bumps that rise from your skin Pustules: pus-filled swellings These spots will appear on your face and are similar to teenage acne. However, unlike acne, your skin should remain free of blackheads (small, blocked pores).
If you have rosacea, you may experience inflammation of the small blood vessels in the surface of your skin. This can cause your skin to appear red and swollen, producing the sort of blotchy skin that is often associated with excessive alcohol consumption. This can be upsetting for people with rosacea, as people often mistakenly assume that they are heavy drinkers. The medical name for visible blood vessels is telangiectasia.
In the most serious and developed cases of rosacea, the skin can thicken and form excess tissue, usually around the nose. This causes the nose to take on a large, bulbous appearance. This is known as rhinophyma. Rhinophyma is a rare symptom of rosacea. When it does occur, it is usually more common in men than women.
Rosacea that affects the eyes is known as ocular rosacea.
Most people with rosacea have periods when their symptoms are particularly troublesome, followed by periods where their symptoms are less problematic. Permanent damage to the face, such as scarring, almost never occurs in rosacea. Rosacea is a common skin condition that mainly affects the face, causing redness and spots.
The exact cause of rosacea is unknown. However, most experts believe it may be caused by a number of related factors. These are outlined below.
Many dermatologists (skin specialists) believe that abnormalities in the blood vessels of the face may be a major contributing factor for rosacea. This may explain the symptoms of flushing, persistent redness and visible blood vessels. However, it is not known what causes these abnormalities.
Demodox folliculorum is a microscopic mite (tiny insect) that may contribute to rosacea. These mites usually live harmlessly on human skin, but higher numbers of mites have been found on people with rosacea. However, it is uncertain whether the mite is a cause or an effect of rosacea.
Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which are found in the digestive system, have been suggested as a possible cause of rosacea, although the link is not proven. The bacteria may stimulate the production of protein called bradykinin, which is known to cause blood vessels to expand.
Rosacea seems to run in families. However, it is not known which genes are involved or how they are passed on.
The symptoms of rosacea can be treated in a number of ways. These are described below.
Making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding possible triggers or wearing sunscreen, can be a good way of controlling the symptoms of facial flushing (when your skin turns red).
A number of treatments are effective in treating the spots and pimples caused by rosacea. Your GP can recommend a cream or gel as the first treatment option.
Rosacea can cause complications that affect you physically and psychologically.
In severe cases, if it is not treated, ocular rosacea can lead to vision loss. Your GP my refer you for treatment with an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specialises in eye conditions and their treatment or surgery).
It is important to come to terms with the fact that you have a chronic condition which, although incurable, is controllable. Persevering with your treatment plan and avoiding your individual triggers are best ways of controlling your rosacea symptoms. As your physical symptoms begin to improve, you will start to feel better psychologically and emotionally. If you have rosacea, try to take comfort knowing that you are not alone. There are millions of people across the world who are living with the condition. Speak to your GP if you are feeling depressed as a result of your condition. They may recommend further treatment.
You can take steps to prevent your symptoms of rosacea from flaring up.
Avoiding known triggers can help reduce the severity and frequency of your rosacea symptoms. To establish what is triggering your symptoms, you could keep a diary of your daily activities to record their impact on your symptoms. Advice about how to avoid some of the common triggers of rosacea is explained below.
The most commonly reported food – and drink – related triggers are alcohol and spicy foods. You may want to completely remove these from your diet to see if your rosacea improves. However, there are many other dietary triggers that can adversely affect some people with rocacea. Include information about how your diet affects your rosacea symptoms in your rosacea diary.
Covering your face and nose with a scarf can help protect your skin from cold temperatures and wind. If you need to spend considerable time outside during cold weather, you can protect your face with a balaclava.
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