Rosacea is a chronic skin condition affecting 14 million americans that can cause one or more of the following: facial redness and swelling, acne-like pimples, visible small blood vessels on the face, swelling and lumpiness of the nose, and dry and irritated eyes. The exact cause of rosacea is not known, the cause may be due to abnormal blood flow to the skin, skin bacteria, microscopic skin mites (Demodex), irritation of hair follicles, sun damage and resultant damage to the skin, an abnormal immune or inflammatory response, or psychological factors. Women are more commonly affected than men and most often sufferers are between the ages of 30 to 60 and have Northwestern European ancestors.

Researchers have recently categorized four major types of the disease:

1) Erythematotelangiectaticdisease- Small skin blood vessels cause a red face and a tendency to flush or get more red at times than others. Patients have dry skin and may have burning and tingling of the face, neck and upper chest.

2) Papulopustular disease- Red and pus-filled acne-like bumps on the face, especially the nose and cheeks. Patients also have a red face.

3) Rhynophymatous- Causes a progressive thickening and surface irregularity of the nose and mid face and chin. Overtime, the nose may become enlarged and lumpy.

4) Ocular- Causes red, itchy, gritty and irritated eyes. Inflammation of the eyelids and susceptibility to eye infections may occur.

Suffers may have "triggers" which worsen the disease, and those patients that do, should try to avoid triggers if possible.

Research conducted by the National Rosacea Foundation found that the leading triggers for rosacea are:

  • sun exposure
  • hot or cold weather
  • emotional stress
  • wind
  • alcohol
  • heavy exercise
  • spicy foods
  • hot baths
  • heated beverages
  • some skin care products
  • humidity
  • indoor heat

Treatment

Treatments are aimed at reducing redness, reducing pimples and preventing deformities of the nose and potential harm to the eyes. Treatments include:

  1. Topical metronidazole- This prescription agent reduces inflammation and kills bacteria and other organisms.
  2. Topical azelaic acid- This naturally occurs substance reduces inflammation and redness
  3. Oral antibiotics- Reduce inflammation and kill bacteria and other organisms.
  4. Topical brimonidine- Temporarily reduces redness for up to 12 hours on the face by causing the visible blood in the upper layers of the skin to shrink.
  5. Vascular laser- Can permanently reduce redness by reducing the small, visible blood in the upper layers of the skin
  6. Surgery- For advanced cases of rhinophyma (enlarged nose), excess, abnormal tissue can be removed from the nose to sculpt a more asthetic appearing nose

To help reduce the incidence of flare-ups, a gentle daily skin care routine is recommended that includes the use of mild, non-abrasive cleansers, soft cloths, rinsing in lukewarm water (not hot or cold), and blotting the face dry (not rubbing). Additionally, individuals with rosacea need to protect themselves from sun exposure by using sunscreens. Patients are also encouraged to keep a record of flare-ups to try and determine the lifestyle and environmental triggers that aggravate the condition.

More information can be found at the National Rosacea Foundation's website:

http://www.rosacea.org