Rosacea is a very common disease that affects 15% to 25% of all people. Even if you don’t have it yourself or even if you don’t know what rosacea looks like, you have probably seen someone who has it.
Rosacea often starts with the face’s tendency to flush, and then develops into a constant redness to the facial complexion. A form of rosacea can also result in bumpy-appearing pimples on the skin, and the added redness is referred to as “acne roseacea.”
The reason that April has been declared Rosacea Awareness Month by the National Rosacea Society is because most people are unaware of this skin disease, despite the fact that up to 14 million Americans are currently living with rosacea. Even some people who have rosacea don’t know what is causing their faces to turn red.
Many people who don’t have rosacea make inaccurate and improper inferences about those who do, assuming that those with facial redness have really high blood pressure or that they drink too much alcohol. These are both wrong and “old wives’ tales” about rosacea.
While we know that rosacea is not caused by excessive blood pressure or too much alcohol intake, the medical and scientific community is unfortunately not precisely certain what does cause rosacea. There are clues and theories.
For instance, we do know that rosacea does run in families, as most people with this problem also have family members with rosacea. This information makes a genetic link likely.
A number of scientific studies have also found that many of the body’s chemicals and metabolites associated with inflammation are found in the skin of those with rosacea. These inflammatory markers may be the cause of the redness and swelling associated with this skin disease.
The management of rosacea symptoms usually involves a combination of treatments. Since rosacea is a chronic medical condition and the ultimate cause is uncertain, the goal in general is to manage and control symptoms, rather than cure the disease.
There are several topical preparations that can stop rosacea from progressing, such as metronidazole. However, these treatments generally will not reverse the redness effect, which is caused by small blood vessels rising to the skin’s surface over time.
Laser therapy is the only definitive treatment that can reduce blood vessel-related redness. Laser beams, when used correctly by a trained professional (like myself), target individual vessels and use the heat produced by the laser hitting the vessel to collapse the vessel.
When the blood vessel is collapsed, it gives a signal to the body to send in cells that will remove the components of the blood vessel and the blood itself. This process weakens the redness by reducing the number of blood vessels in the superficial facial skin layer by layer.
One of the reasons I believe that Rosacea Awareness Month is important is that if you treat rosacea early, you can prevent the embarrassing symptoms before they get too far along. Education about rosacea will help rosacea patients who aren’t aware that they have this condition to both become more informed and, consequently, to seek treatment early.
Paying attention to your own good skin care is also important in order to keep rosacea under control. Using a broad spectrum sunscreen, using a gentle cleanser and moisturizer, and avoiding harsh and abrasive skin care products will all limit self-inflicted worsening of rosacea.
Rosacea symptoms can also be subsided by limiting triggers that make redness worse. These can affect each individual differently, but can include:
- excessive sun
- excessive stress
- spicy foods
- caffeinated beverages
- alcohol with red wine (the most notorious trigger, actually)
If you have any questions about rosacea this month, or if you think that you or a loved one has rosacea, call us for a free and confidential consultation at (207) 873-2158. We can discuss active treatments to reduce redness symptoms, and preventive treatments to reduce worsening over time.