Roses Are Red and My Cheeks are Flushed: Dealing With Rosacea
Unsightly, botherson, and embarrassing, rosacea is a very common skin condition with the frustrating tendency to flare up at the most inopportune moments. Left untreated, it tends to worsen over time.
It can cause redness and visible blood vessels in your face, and even red, pus-filled bumps. Sometimes it's mistaken for acne or an allergic reaction. Symptoms may wax and wane, sometimes appearing and disappearing for weeks or months at a time.
What Does It Look Like?
Anyone is at risk for developing this pesky condition, but it usually affects fair-skinned women of middle age, especially if they are from Celtic or Scandinavian ancestry. People developing rosacea will usually find that they have had lots of acne in the past.
Symptoms usually start with a tendency to redden or blush more readily, and progress to facial redness, mostly in the central part of your face. The tiny blood vessels on your nose and cheeks often swell and become visible. Many people will also develop acne-like, swollen red bumps that resemble pimples. They often contain pus. Sometimes your skin may feel tender and hot. A good number of people also experience dry eyes, irritation, or swollen, red eyelids. These symptoms may often show up before the other visible symptoms. Some men may experience rhinophyma, or a swollen, bulbous nose. This is a result of thickening on the skin of the nose because of an enlargement of the sebaceous (oil) glands. Women may see this, too, though it's not as common.
Over time, many people will experience a permanent redness in the center of their face.
Because of its widespread commonality, rosacea has four subtypes doctors use to diagnose it:
- Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea describes a case with redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels
- Papulopustular rosacea shows up as redness, swelling, and the acne-like breakouts
- Phymatous rosacea is where the skin actually thickens and has a bumpy texture
- Ocular rosacea causes red, irritated eyelids that may be swollen. Some people will develop what looks like a sty.
Rosacea will gradually worsen with age. WebMD states that many rosacea sufferers have reported that without treatment their condition had advanced from early to middle stage within a year.
What Went Wrong
Sadly, not necessarily anything. It is not the result of poor hygiene. The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, but it could come from a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.
It's possible that rosacea may come from an inherited gene. Oftentimes family members will also experience this condition.
Scientists have found that most people with Papulopustular rosacea react to the bacteria known as bacillus oleronius, causing an immune system overreaction. They believe this might play a role, and have noticed that the presence of this bacteria often correlates to overpopulation of the demodex mite. Demodex is found on everyone's skin, usually on the nose and cheeks, places you're likely to see a rosacea flare-up. Studies are finding that this mite is seen in large numbers on people experiencing rosacea, though it's also found in large numbers on others that aren't, so scientists are up in the air on this one.
Some individuals may express an abnormality in how the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin) processes an amino acid chain important to immune response.
Don't Make It WorseCertain things will trigger or aggravate rosacea by increasing blood flow to the surface of the skin. They may include:
- Temperature extremes
- Emotions (stress, anxiety)
- Spicy foods or hot drinks
- Sunlight or wind
- Drugs that dilate blood vessels, including some blood pressure medications
Put Up a Good Fight
- While you can't cure rosacea, you can pay attention to the triggers that cause your flare-ups. Keep track of your daily habits and dietary intake and take steps to avoid those things in the future if you notice a correlation with flare-ups.
- Some medications may help to manage the redness, bumps, and other symptoms. Talking with your dermatologist is an important step in managing your case. They may suggest Brimonidine to tighten blood vessels, azelaic acid to clear up bumps and swelling, or antibiotics like metronidazole or doxycycline to kill bacteria and decrease redness. Some acne drugs may help to clear up the skin bumps. Other therapies aimed at ridding the demodex mite are sometimes worth considering.
- Other therapies may include pulsed-light therapies, laser, or phytodynamic therapy.
- Wear your sunscreen or avoid the sun altogether, as most people with rosacea find that their skin is very sensitive. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and wear protective clothing.
- Be gentle with your skin. Use mild skin care products, since many others can irritate rosacea-prone skin. Don't scrub your skin or use harsh cleansers. Opt for products that moisturize and avoid irritants like alcohol and fragrances.
Most of all, don't stress over it. Many people are going through the same frustrations, and becoming emotional about how you look will only add fuel to the fire.