For years, flushing of the face has been a persistent issue for many. When, though, does that redness indicate a deeper condition?
Rosacea is a skin condition causing redness of the face. In some cases, blood vessels and small, red bumps are also visible. It presents differently for everyone and can develop at any age. “Rosacea is often misdiagnosed, and many don’t seek treatment because they don’t realize it’s rosacea,” says Dr. Jeffrey Fromowitz, a dermatologist based in Boca Raton, Florida.
Flare ups may occur randomly, lasting for weeks or months before going away. And while it can affect anyone, it’s most commonly seen in:
- People ages 30-60.
- Individuals with light skin.
- Those with a family history of the condition.
“The amount of people affected by rosacea is higher than widely believed,” Dr. Danilo C. Del Campo, a dermatologist practicing at Chicago Skin Clinic, concurs. “It is estimated to be about 5% of the population” or nearly 16 million Americans.
Your primary care doctor or a dermatologist can help diagnose this condition.
There are four subtypes of this condition based on appearance, location and severity, with different symptoms for each, according to the Mayo Clinic. This means it’s possible to have more than one kind of rosacea at once.
Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea. ETR rosacea is commonly associated with redness of the face and visible blood vessels on the skin’s surface.
Papulopustular rosacea. Flare ups of papulopustular rosacea are characterized by acne-like breakouts on the face.
Rhinophyma.This is a rare form of rosacea that involves thickening of the skin, commonly on or around the nose. Rhinophyma is frequently paired with another subtype of rosacea.
Ocular rosacea. Ocular rosacea presents symptoms like redness, burning and itching centered around the eyes.
Symptoms of Rosacea
While rosacea is not life-threatening, it can negatively impact the quality of life for affected people. Common symptoms include:
- Redness in the face. This symptom is most common in the central region of the face.
- Visible blood vessels. These appear as little bumps resembling acne. The blood vessels may be pus-filled.
- Swollen or sensitive skin. This often feels like a burning sensation.
- Eye problems. These are less common, but often include burning, watering and overall irritation.
Surveys from the National Rosacea society show more than 90% of patients feel their rosacea has lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, 41% reported their rosacea had led them to avoid public contact.
Common Causes of Rosacea
Rosacea triggers vary on a case by case basis, but several common causes have been identified:
If you suffer from rosacea, you may experience additional triggers. “I always have my patients tell me what they think their triggers and have them avoid them if possible,” says Dr. Desmond Shipp, a dermatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
When to See a Doctor
“It’s never too soon to get good guidance and good advice because the earlier we intervene, the more durable the correction is,” says Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand, a dermatologist specializing in cutaneous laser surgery and the dermatologic care of patients based in Dallas.
Similarly, Del Campo explains that “dermatologists are experts in diagnosing this condition, but also recognizing if there is another related condition mimicking rosacea.” So while there’s no complete right time to seek medical guidance on the condition, taking precautions about your rosacea sooner rather than later can help get it under control early on.
Although there’s no cure for rosacea, research is continuous and offers hope for an eventual breakthrough. In fact, a 2018 study found a significant correlation between severity and development of rosacea and an imbalance of bacteria, viruses and fungi that are normally found on the face. These findings provided the basis for future research into causes of and treatment options for rosacea.
“Many patients with rosacea worry they cannot have a beautiful complexion, but we can help make them feel good and have nice skin,” Fromowitz says. “Our treatments have improved remarkably over the last few decades.”
There are a handful of medical and at-home treatment options, although success rates vary on a case-by-case basis. Medical treatment options are broken into three categories:
- Topical creams. These typically extend to options like creams, liquids and soaps. Topical creams are often found to be most effective in treating the bumps that occur during flare ups.
- Pills. These sometimes include antibiotics, which can be used for their anti-inflammatory effects.
- Devices. This includes things like laser and light-based therapy, which has been found to have success in reducing the redness rosacea causes.
Dr. Anne Chapas, a Manhattan-based dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon specializing in laser surgery, notes patients typically see the most effective results with a combination of treatments.
Home Remedies for Rosacea
There are also several at-home remedies that help treat symptoms of rosacea:
- Avoid or minimize triggers. Alcohol, certain foods, caffeine and more can all help minimize rosacea flare ups.
- Adjust skin care. Everyone’s skin reacts to facial washes differently. Be conscious of ingredients within your products; consider oil-free or water-based cleansers. Del Campo recommends using a mineral-based sunscreen, ideally SPF 30 or higher, every time you go outside. Houshmand agrees, saying “sunscreen is the most effective treatment option.”
- Facial massage. This has been found to sometimes help with facial swelling as a result of rosacea.
If redness is the primary concern with your rosacea, Shipp recommends using a green foundation to offset the reddened appearance of the skin. Trying the different treatment options will help to identify how you can best treat rosacea.