What Is It?
Rosacea (rose-ay-shah) is a common, long-lasting skin condition that causes inflammation and redness of the face. It usually starts with redness on the cheeks and nose, and also can affect the forehead and chin. The late comedian W.C. Fields, who was known for his wicked wit and red, bulbous nose, had an advanced case of rosacea.
Rosacea usually affects fair-skinned adults between ages 30 and 50 who have "peaches and cream" complexions and a history of blushing easily. Women develop rosacea more often than men, but men are more apt to develop lumpy, enlarged noses, a condition called rhinophyma. Rosacea often is mistaken for sunburn and often goes undiagnosed. It is a very treatable condition.
There are four progressive stages of rosacea.
Here's a detailed look at the most common symptoms of rosacea:
A doctor usually can diagnose rosacea based on the history of flushing and the appearance of your skin. In the early stages of rosacea, the rash sometimes can be mistaken for sunburn, acne, hot flashes of menopause or allergy to cosmetics.
Symptoms of rosacea commonly come and go in cycles, often triggered by substances and situations that make the face flush. By seeking medical help early and adhering to medical treatments, you can improve your skin condition and perhaps stop, or reverse, the progress of this condition.
There is no way to prevent rosacea, but the symptoms can be reduced by recognizing these common triggers: hot drinks, alcohol, spicy foods, stress, sunlight, extreme heat or cold. These conditions increase blood flow and cause the small blood vessels in the face to widen (dilate). If you have rosacea, try to identify your particular triggers and either modify them or avoid them entirely.
To cleanse and moisturize your face, you should select facial products that do not burn, sting, irritate or cause redness when they are applied. You should wash your face with lukewarm water and a mild soap, using your fingertips to apply the soap gently. You should avoid toners, astringents, scrubs, exfoliating agents and products that contain alcohol or acetone. Hydroxy acids and tretinoin (for example, Retin A) may sensitize the skin to sun and can worsen rosacea.
Sunscreens and sun blockers should be used regularly and liberally to protect the face. Use sunscreens with SPF factor of 15 or higher. If chemical sunscreens cause stinging, switch to physical sun blocks, which contain titanium or zinc oxide.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe the following:
When to Call a Professional
Contact your doctor if you notice a persistent facial blush, or if your complexion shows persistent pimples and red, dry, scaly blotches. Also call your doctor if you suspect that constant redness on your cheeks is not caused by sunburn or by your tendency to blush easily. Remember, it's easy to misdiagnose rosacea as acne, and using nonprescription acne medications may worsen your rosacea by irritating skin that is already dry and sensitive.
The progression of rosacea varies from person to person, depending on factors such as genetics, skin sensitivity, skin complexion, length of time spent in sunlight without sunscreen, consumption of alcohol and spicy foods, and exposure to extreme hot and cold temperatures. With appropriate treatment and avoidance of triggers, rosacea generally can be well controlled.
National Rosacea Society
800 S. Northwest Highway
Barrington, IL 60010