Have you been troubled by unexplained redness, swelling or breakouts? If so, these could be signs of rosacea.
Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that affects over 16 million Americans, according to the National Rosacea Society. It commonly appears on the forehead, nose and cheeks, although other areas may be affected. Rosacea is not contagious, which means you cannot get it from someone else.
Although there is no cure, people with rosacea can enjoy beautiful, healthy skin through a combination of professional and at-home care. Your dermatologist diagnoses rosacea by examining your skin to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms. The goals of your personalized treatment plan will be to reduce the visible signs of rosacea, ease discomfort and prevent symptoms from worsening.
What Are the Symptoms of Rosacea?
As noted above, rosacea most commonly appears on the nose, cheeks and forehead. Other affected areas may include the chest, ears, neck and scalp. There are four different subtypes of rosacea, which present with different symptoms.
Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea (ETR)
ETR rosacea causes the familiar redness, flushing and visible, broken blood vessels often associated with the condition. Other symptoms may include swollen and sensitive skin, a stinging or burning sensation and dry, rough or scaly skin.
Papulopustular or Acne Rosacea
As the name implies, this subtype causes acne-like breakouts and occurs most often in middle-aged women. You may experience oily skin, sensitivity, broken blood vessels and raised patches of skin known as plaques. Your skin may also feel hot and tender to the touch.
This rare form of rosacea causes a thickening of skin around the nose. It may also affect the chin, forehead, cheeks and ears. Other symptoms may include enlarged pores and visible, broken blood vessels. Over time, this type of rosacea can cause the nose to appear larger. It occurs most commonly in men.
Symptoms of ocular rosacea mostly affect the eye area. You may notice bloodshot or watery eyes and a gritty feeling in your eyes. Other signs include burning or stinging in the eyes, dry, itchy eyes and cysts on the eyelids. Some patients may even notice diminished vision or their eyes becoming more sensitive to light. People with ocular rosacea may also develop skin problems common to other subtypes.
What Causes Rosacea?
The exact cause of rosacea remains unknown, but researchers have identified a number of factors which may increase your risk.
- Roscea is most common between the ages of 30 and 50, although children and teens may be affected.
- Women are more likely to get rosacea, but men tend to have more severe symptoms.
- People with a fair complexion are at greater risk. This includes light skin, light hair and blue eyes.
- There may also be a genetic component, as people with a family history of rosacea tend to be at greater risk.
- Smoking may increase your risk of rosacea.
Scientists have also found that people with rosacea tend to have elevated levels of a common skin mite known as Demodex folliculorum. There may also be a relationship to a type of gut bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, which produces a substance that causes blood vessels to dilate.
What Treatments Are Available?
Your dermatologist will develop a personalized care plan to minimize flare-ups and help you enjoy beautiful skin. Either topical or oral rosacea medications may be used to control redness, swelling and breakouts. Many patients also see excellent results from laser treatments using intense pulsed light (IPL).
Topical medications can reduce redness, with results often appearing within 12 hours. The effect is temporary, so continued use will be necessary. Other creams or gels are helpful for controlling breakouts, typically delivering results within two to six weeks.
For some patients, oral antibiotics may be effective for controlling flare-ups of severe redness and pimples. Ocular rosacea can sometimes be treated with antibiotic eye drops to relieve dryness, itching, blurred vision and light sensitivity.
IPL procedures such as Lumecca by InMode are very effective for reducing vacsular lesions and hyperpigmentation caused by rosacea. Patients often see impressive results in just a few treatment sessions. Microneedling may be a good option for patients experiencing thickening of the skin.
How Can You Avoid Flare-Ups?
In many patients, rosacea symptoms may go away for weeks or months at a time, only to reappear later. There are many common factors that can trigger flare-ups, although they will vary from person to person.
- Spicy foods: Capsaicin, which is found in cayenne pepper, red peppers and hot sauce, is one example. Another is cinnamaldehyde, which is found in tomatoes, chocolate and citrus fruits.
- Alcohol and caffeine: Wine and hard liquor may worsen your symptoms. Hot beverages such as coffee and tea may also trigger flare-ups.
- Extreme temperatures: Hot weather and sunlight exposure can aggravate rosacea symptoms. Cold, windy conditions during the winter can also be a problem.
- Emotional stress: Some people find symptoms getting worse when dealing with stressful situations such as a family illness or difficulties at work.
- Exercise: Sweat and dirt can accumulate on the skin during physical activity, which can trigger a flare-up. It’s important to wash with a gentle cleanser after each workout.
- Medication side effects: Drugs that dilate blood vessels, such as some blood pressure medications, may worsen rosacea in some patients.
How Should You Care for Your Skin?
Along with professional treatments and avoiding flare-up triggers, your day-to-day skin care routine can help you keep rosacea symptoms at bay.
- Gently cleanse twice a day: Apply a mild cleanser to your skin with a gentle, circular motion. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a clean towel. Avoid scrubbing to reduce the risk of flare-ups.
- Use sunscreen year-round: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher every day, whether it’s hot or cold outside. Avoid midday sun exposure and find the shade when outdoors. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing.
- Moisturize daily: A gentle moisturizer hydrates your skin and helps to reduce irritation. Choose oil-free, water-based products and avoid harsh ingredients like alcohol, menthol or witch hazel.
- Test before using: Whenever you purchase a new cosmetic or skin care product, do a patch test first. Apply the product to a small patch of skin and wait 24 to 72 hours. If no irritation appears, the product is likely safe to use on your skin.
Your overall lifestyle can also help you control your rosacea symptoms. First, take steps to reduce stress. This can include calming activities such as yoga, meditation or journaling, or talking to a mental health provider. Second, make sure you’re getting good quality sleep each night. Finally, a healthy diet and exercise plan are also great for your skin. Be sure to gently wash after each workout, as noted above, to reduce the risk of flare-ups.
If you have rosacea, or think you may have it, Cayce Dermatology Center and Medical Spa is here to help. Our medical team will develop a personalized care plan to address your symptoms.
Contact us online to schedule an appointment. We look forward to answering your questions and helping you achieve the beautiful, healthy skin you deserve!