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Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that affects more than 16 million Americans. The cause of rosacea is still unknown, and there is no cure. However, research has allowed doctors to find ways to treat the condition by minimizing its symptoms.
There are four subtypes of rosacea. Each subtype has its own set of symptoms. It is possible to have more than one subtype of rosacea at a time.
Rosacea’s trademark symptom is small, red, pus-filled bumps on the skin that are present during flare-ups. Typically, rosacea affects only skin on your nose, cheeks, and forehead.
Flare-ups often occur in cycles. This means that you will experience symptoms for weeks or months at a time, the symptoms will go away, and then return.
The four types of rosacea are:
- Subtype one, known as erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR), is associated with facial redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels.
- Subtype two, papulopustular (or acne) rosacea, is associated with acne-like breakouts, and often affects middle-aged women.
- Subtype three, known as rhinophyma, is a rare form associated with thickening of the skin on your nose. It usually affects men and is often accompanied by another subtype of rosacea.
- Subtype four is known as ocular rosacea, and its symptoms are centered on the eye area.
Rosacea symptoms are different between each subtype.
Signs of rosacea ETR:
- flushing and redness in the center of your face
- visible broken blood vessels
- swollen skin
- sensitive skin
- stinging and burning skin
- dry, rough, and scaly skin
Signs of acne rosacea:
- acne-like breakouts and very red skin
- oily skin
- sensitive skin
- broken blood vessels that are visible
- raised patches of skin
Signs of thickening skin:
- bumpy skin texture
- thick skin on nose
- thick skin on chin, forehead, cheeks, and ears
- large pores
- visible broken blood vessels
Signs of ocular rosacea:
- bloodshot and watery eyes
- eyes that feel gritty
- burning or stinging sensation in the eyes
- dry, itchy eyes
- eyes that are sensitive to light
- cysts on eyes
- diminished vision
- broken blood vessels on eyelids
The cause of rosacea has not been determined. It may be a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. It is known that some things may make your rosacea symptoms worse. These include:
- eating spicy foods
- eating items that contain the compound cinnamaldehyde, such as cinnamon, chocolate, tomatoes, and citrus
- drinking hot coffee or tea
- having the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
- a skin mite called demodex and the bacterium it carries, Bacillus oleronius
- the presence of cathelicidin (a protein that protects the skin from infection)
There are some factors that will make you more likely to develop rosacea than others. Rosacea often develops in people between the ages of 30 and 50. It is also more common in people who are fair-skinned and have blond hair and blue eyes.
There are also genetic links to rosacea. You are more likely to develop rosacea if you have a family history of the condition or if you have Celtic or Scandinavian ancestors. Women are also more likely to develop the condition than men. However, men who develop the condition often have more severe symptoms.
Your doctor can easily diagnose rosacea from a physical examination of your skin. They may refer you to a dermatologist who can determine whether you have rosacea or another skin condition.
Rosacea cannot be cured, but you can take steps to control your symptoms.
Make sure to take care of your skin using gentle cleansers and oil-free, water-based skin-care products.
Avoid products that contain:
- witch hazel
- exfoliating agents
These ingredients may irritate your symptoms.
Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan. This is usually a regimen of antibiotic creams and oral antibiotics.
Keep a journal of the foods you eat and the cosmetics you put on your skin. This will help you figure out what makes your symptoms worse.
Other management steps include:
- avoiding direct sunlight and wearing sunscreen
- avoiding drinking alcohol
- using lasers and light treatment to help with some severe cases of rosacea
- microdermabrasion treatments to reduce thickening skin
- taking eye medicines and antibiotics for ocular rosacea
Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that you will need to learn to manage. It can be difficult to cope with a chronic condition. Get support by finding support groups or online message boards. Connecting with other people who have rosacea can help you feel less alone.
There is no cure for rosacea, but you can control it with treatment. Rosacea affects everyone differently and it can take time to figure out how to manage your condition. The best way to prevent an outbreak is to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan and avoid your triggers.