Rosacea Basics

A face that has become chronically red or swollen has likely developed rosacea, a skin condition that also affects the neck, chest, back, scalp, ears, and sometimes even the eyes. Rosacea isn’t a contagious skin condition. It is different from common acne experienced by teenagers, even though it is frequently also referred to as acne rosacea. While women are more likely to develop rosacea than men, it is men who are more likely to experience the worst cases of rosacea. This skin condition most often affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years. Causes of rosacea have not yet been discovered, but it is likely that both environmental conditions and genetics play a role.

How It Forms: Indicators and Symptoms of Rosacea

Rosacea can manifest as a propensity to turn red or blush, and it usually advances into forming acne, additional and chronic redness, and thin, visible blood vessels (called telangiectasia) in the face. These indicators start in the face’s center and then progress outward and upward to the forehead, chin, and cheeks. Many of the 16 million U.S. residents who have rosacea do not even know that they have this skin condition because they have not recognized the symptoms of it. Additional symptoms include itchy or tight or dry skin, swelling in the center of the face, burning or stinging, thickening skin, eye problems including those also indicative of an allergic reaction, eyelids that have become swollen, and bumps that appear on the nose (rhinophyma).

Types of Rosacea

Rosacea comes in 4 different subtypes, and people who have it have more than one subtype at a time. (However, ocular rosacea, or rosacea of the eye, can occur by itself without affecting the skin tissue.)

  • 1st subtype: Facial redness, or “erythematotelangiectatic rosacea”. This refers to rosacea that manifests as chronic redness or blushing in the face. Another sign of this subtype is the occurrence of visible blood vessels on the face.
  • 2nd subtype: Pimples and bumps, or “papulopostular rosacea”. Again, this does not mean normal acne, but the kind that comes with rosacea: persistent and chronic redness along with pimples.
  • 3rd subtype: Skin thickening, or “phymatous rosacea”. This subtype of rosacea manifests with thicker skin, usually around the center of the face and around the nose.
  • 4th subtype: Eye irritation, or “ocular rosacea”. Ocular rosacea results in eyes that sting or burn, appearing bloodshot or watery and irritated.

More About Rosacea

Treatment of Rosacea

Early diagnosis is important in treating rosacea so as to stop it from progressing. Likewise, treatment not only helps reduce symptoms and discomfort but can stop the condition from progressing so far that the skin has become disfigured. There are some specific treatments that will allow you to control rosacea, but unfortunately there is not yet a cure for it. Common treatments may be as complicated as having surgery or laser therapy for more advanced cases or as simple as making a few lifestyle modifications and using topical or oral medications like Oracea®, MetroGel®, or Finacea®. These treatments have proven successful in reducing the current symptoms of rosacea and in preventing it from getting worse. The worse this skin condition gets, the harder it is to treat it. Thus, a professional dermatologist will consider your condition and help you develop a treatment plan according to what subtype of rosacea you have, how severe a case it is, how previous treatments have gone, your type of skin, and your personal tastes or preferences. In some cases, multiple treatments may be prescribed together to treat rosacea, such as both a topical and an oral medication.

Managing Rosacea

Rosacea can appear in flares just like other skin conditions, and can also show up after certain triggers. These may be anything from stress to sun exposure or even hot temperatures. Keep a diary of your rosacea symptoms and experiences, noting potential triggers for rosacea flare-ups so as to avoid them in the future. These flares can be prevented by working with your dermatologist and avoiding those triggers wherever possible. Take care to follow the skin care program your dermatologist recommends, including cleaning your face daily with the right solutions and using sunscreen.