If you’ve noticed persistent blushing and the odd bumps here and there on your face, you may have rosacea. Although it resembles other skin conditions, rosacea is a unique, common, and treatable condition. In this article, we help you understand the basics of this troublesome condition.
Rosacea is a skin condition that affects the face, including the forehead, nose, chin, and cheeks. Occasional skin flare ups characterize the condition. When you get a flareup, your skin becomes red and ruddier than the other parts of your skin. In advanced cases, bumps, pimples, skin thickening, and eye irritation may occur. Although there is no cure for this chronic condition, several treatments are available to manage and minimize your symptoms.
There are four types of this condition:
Your symptoms depend on the type of rosacea you have. However, it is common for different types to occur at once, leading to overlapping or combined symptoms.
Rosacea looks like reddish blushing around the central parts of your face. It typically affects fair-skinned people more. However, anyone can get this condition. If you have such redness, the diagnosis is confirmed if the redness persists and you experience some level of skin thickening.
You can identify skin thickening by when you run your fingers on your skin and feel slightly raised bumps. Although such flare ups come and go, it is best to seek treatment when you first notice the redness to forestall any worsening of the condition.
Rosacea acne, also called papulopustular rosacea or adult acne, is a type that causes acne-like skin breakouts. Such breakouts may have pus-filled pimples, cysts, and bumps. Although bearing the name of ‘acne’, it is not actually a type of acne. Instead, it gets its name from the similarity of its breakouts to those of acne.
Rosacea acne rarely occurs before other types of acne. Before the onset of this condition, milder types of rosacea may occur, which, if left untreated, then develop into rosacea acne. As such, early treatment may prevent rosacea acne from forming.
Anyone can get rosacea. According to the National Rosacea Society, this condition affects upwards of 16 million Americans. However, the majority do not know they have the condition and so do not seek treatment. Although studies have identified some risk factors, it is not entirely clear why some people get it and others don’t (Abram).
Here are some of the most common risk factors doctors suspect may lead to this condition:
Several studies link rosacea to genetic factors. The studies compared control subject DNA (people with no rosacea) to test subject DNA (people with rosacea). They found evidence of gene markers for the condition. The markers identified were in the same region as those found for other inflammation and autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, diabetes, and IBD. These results suggest a strong link between rosacea and genes. A history of this condition in families in general further reinforces these findings.
Triggers may influence rosacea flare-ups. Understanding triggers is one of the ways you can manage the condition.
Here are the most common triggers:
Although it seems like a lot can cause a flare up, these factors tend to affect different people in different ways. For example, while one person may get a flare up from taking red wine, taking a hot shower may not affect them.
It’s impossible to tell whether this condition gets worse with age. What starts as mild flushing and redness may or may not escalate into acne-like lesions and permanent scarring. However, rosacea can worsen with age if left untreated. If you catch and treat this condition early, it is possible to prevent it from worsening over time.
The scientific community currently considers rosacea as non-infectious, non-pathogenic, and non-communicable. You cannot transmit it to someone else through touch or sharing clothes, food, or cosmetics.
If you are pregnant or nursing, you may wonder whether you might transfer rosacea to your baby. Scientific research has found no such link. The only way you might pass on this condition to your child is through your genes.
Although rosacea has no known links to other skin conditions, there are several that have lookalike symptoms. These include:
If you experience rosacea-like symptoms, contact your doctor to rule out any of these or other more-serious diseases with similar symptoms.
Rosacea is characterized by flare ups that come and go. However, it is highly unlikely that over time, these flare ups will go away for good.
Some studies have found that rosacea does get worse with age (Huynh). Additionally, if left untreated, each subsequent flare up may be worse than the last. Because of this, it is not recommended to wait out a flareup with no management or treatment intervention.
Scientific research is yet to establish a concrete link between allergies and rosacea. Current evidence seems to point to a correlation between allergies and rosacea rather than causation.
However, this connection remains a possibility. For instance, the antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin LL-37 is part of the body’s allergic response. It is known to cause a heightened immune response as well as vascularization in the skin, two factors consistent with rosacea.
If you suspect an allergy may be causing a flare up, it is worthwhile to mention this to your doctor for further investigation.
Rosacea is still a poorly understood condition. We are not sure what causes it or how to stop it. Because of this, it is not possible to completely prevent flare-ups. However, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends these steps to reduce flare ups: