Introduction to Rosacea
Rosacea is a common skin condition affecting the face.
What is Rosacea?
Rosacea is a common skin condition affecting the face. It is thought to affect as many as 1 in 10 people, with women being more commonly affected. The condition is relapsing in nature, meaning that individuals go through periods where the condition flares up, with intervening periods where the condition is less severe. The condition is not contagious and treatment can help normalise many of the symptoms. However, the appearance of the skin can influence how you feel in yourself and how you interact with other people. If you think you may be suffering from rosacea, please see a dermatologist or GP.
What are the causes for Rosacea?
Despite being a common problem, there has been little research attempting to identify the cause of rosacea. Environmental triggers such as alcohol and UV light are thought to stimulate flare-ups, possibly by causing the release of molecules known as peptides. These peptides are thought to activate the immune system or other bodily systems to cause the dilation of blood vessels, resulting in the characteristic redness associated with rosacea. Other possible causes include infection with certain bacteria, colonisation by specific types of mite and genetic predispositions.
What are the symptoms of Rosacea?
Rosacea usually begins with symptoms of skin flushing. This typically affects the face, but may affect other regions such as your neck or chest. As the condition progresses, the redness can become longer-lasting; this is called erythema. Small vessels may become apparent in the skin (telangiectasia) and you may experience burning sensations. Spots sometimes appear. These are similar to spots experienced in acne, though the skin is typically not greasy and blackheads are not visible. Scarring of the skin is rare.
In severe cases, the affected skin may become thickened. This is most likely to occur around the nose, resulting in a bulbous appearance known as rhinophyma. However, this is still a rare complication. Some individuals experience problems with their eyes, such as blood shot eyes, dryness and swelling of the eyelids.
How is Rosacea treated?
There is no cure for rosacea, but a combination of self-help and medical treatment can help to minimise your symptoms. Flare-ups can be prevented to an extent by avoiding triggers and using skin products suitable for sensitive skin. To deal with associated spots, topical creams such as metronidazole cream, azelaic acid cream and ivermectin cream may be useful. If your condition is severe, oral antibiotics or isotretinoin may be prescribed.
To address the issue of redness, topical agents such as brimonidine tartrate can be used. Alternatively, oral medication such as clonidine can sometimes be effective. If you are unhappy with the flushing or telangiectasia and medication is not alleviating the symptoms, you may wish to consider laser or IPL treatment. This involves a dermatologist shining beams of light at blood vessels in the skin, causing them to shrink.