Rosacea is a common dermatological condition that affects approximately 3 million Canadians. The signs and symptoms of rosacea are visible and can cause sufferers emotional distress and impact their social lives. There is currently no known cure for this skin disorder; however, it can be treated.
Rosacea Awareness Month, celebrated in April, was initiated to promote education on rosacea, its triggers, symptoms, and treatments. Understanding the nature of rosacea and knowing the remedies available can help sufferers care for their skin, minimize symptoms, and maintain the quality of life. Get involved in the movement to spread public education about this skin condition.
What Are the Risk Factors for Rosacea?
Rosacea can affect anyone. However, having the following risk factors increase the likelihood of an individual developing rosacea:
- Age – Rosacea typically affects adults between 30 and 60 years old.
- Gender – While it can affect both male and female, rosacea is more common in women. However, men have a higher risk of developing severe rosacea.
- Genetics – Strong evidence suggests that rosacea may be influenced by genetics. People with rosacea have close relations (parents, siblings, aunts, or uncles) who are also suffering from the same condition. It is particularly prevalent among those of Irish, Scottish, English, and Northern European descent.
- Skin Colour – A significant portion of those with rosacea have fair skin, although individuals with darker skin can also be affected as well.
Experts have suspected that other factors contribute to rosacea, including the following:
- Demodex folliculorum – are microscopic mites that inhabit human skin. Though these mites are found in almost all humans and are generally harmless, they appear in higher density on individuals with rosacea. Despite this strong connection, whether the larger mite population is the cause or the result of rosacea has not yet been determined.
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) – H. pylori is a bacteria that resides in the gut and is associated with gastric disorders. The bacteria has been found to trigger inflammation which can lead to the development and aggravate instances of rosacea.
What Are the Symptoms of Rosacea?
Rosacea, generally manifests as redness or bumps in the skin, often resembling other skin conditions like acne or allergic hives. The signs and symptoms range from mild to severe and vary greatly, depending on the type of rosacea the individual has. It is possible for people to develop a combination of two kinds of rosacea at the same time or for one to progress into another. Flare-ups can last for a few weeks to a few months before subsiding temporarily. If left untreated, symptoms can get progressively worse.
Below are the four types of rosacea and their symptoms:
- Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea – This type of rosacea is characterized by persistent flushing on the central parts of the face (particularly on the nose and cheeks), swelling, and dryness. This is accompanied by a burning or stinging sensation, increased sensitivity, and itching in affected parts.
- Papulopustular rosacea – This type of rosacea presents as swollen red and sometimes, pus-filled pustules or bumps on the cheeks, nose, forehead, or around the eyes or nose. It can easily be mistaken for acne. Blood vessels typically become visible without necessarily resulting in flushing. Other symptoms include swelling, burning, dryness, and tenderness.
- Ocular rosacea – This type of rosacea translates as eye irritation or inflammation resulting in bloodshot, itchy, and watery eyes. Other symptoms include light sensitivity, blurred vision, the feeling of a foreign body trapped in the eyes, and (rarely) loss of sight. Individuals with other types of rosacea may develop ocular rosacea at the same time. For many, rosacea on the skin precedes eye symptoms.
- Phymatous rosacea – This type of rosacea is rare. It mainly occurs in men and mostly results in an enlarged nose (or rhinophyma). While it commonly affects the nose, symptoms can also present on the forehead, ears, cheeks, and chin. It can cause the affected area to thicken, develop bumps and redness, and become sore.
If you experience persistent redness of your face, see your doctor or a skin specialist (dermatologist) for a diagnosis and proper treatment.
What Triggers Rosacea?
Rosacea flare-ups can be triggered by the following:
- Extreme temperatures – Whether outdoors or indoors, heat can cause rosacea symptoms to break out. Common triggers include sun exposure, hot indoor spaces, and hot showers and baths. Avoid exposing yourself to these conditions. When going outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and wear a hat and sunglasses for protection.Rosacea breakouts can also be caused by dry, cold weather. Canadians with rosacea can be prone to flare-ups during the winter. Wear protective clothing like a scarf when venturing outdoors.
- Food and beverages – Some foods and drinks can bring on an attack. Avoid spicy food, alcohol, especially red wine, and hot liquids to keep from triggering symptoms.
- Stress or anxiety – Another major trigger of rosacea is stress. Manage stress by avoiding stressors, developing better time management skills, and learning relaxation techniques to prevent rosacea flare-ups.
- Cosmetics and skincare products – Avoid products that contain ingredients that can irritate skin including:
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Witch Hazel
Use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers on your face instead of soap. Hydrate skin with barrier repair cream or a rosacea-friendly moisturizer. Steer clear from astringents. Most importantly, test products first before applying them on your face.
- Medications – Some drugs have been known to cause flare-ups or aggravate symptoms of rosacea. Among these are:
- Topical steroids (with long-term use)
- Blood pressure drugs
Consult your doctor when taking any form of medication to avoid triggering or worsening symptoms.
- Exercise – High-intensity exercise increases the body’s core temperature which can lead to flushing and itchiness in areas affected by rosacea. Experts suggest sticking to low- to medium-intensity activities like yoga or Pilates.
What Are the Treatments for Rosacea?
While no cure has yet been developed for rosacea, sufferers can turn to a variety of treatments to relieve symptoms including:
- Medications – Treatment may involve a combination of prescribed topical medications (applied to the skin) and oral drugs (swallowing pills, tablets, or capsules). These include:
- Antibiotics – Antibiotics are used to treat inflammation, reduce swelling, and relieve acne-like symptoms. Topical antibiotics (e.g. tretinoin and azelaic acid) are often prescribed in conjunction with oral antibiotics (e.g. metronidazole and erythromycin).
- Low-dose doxycycline – While a low dose of doxycycline is not powerful enough to kill bacteria, it still retains its anti-inflammatory capabilities. This enables it to calm rosacea symptoms without the side effects of antibiotics.
- Artificial tears – Artificial tears may be recommended for treating ocular rosacea along with improved lid hygiene and antibiotics.
- Isotretinoin – Isotretinoin is an oral medication prescribed for severe cases of rosacea. Although it is a powerful drug that can effectively reduce symptoms, it can have serious side effects and is only recommended when all other treatments have failed.
Speak to your doctor to know which medication is best for you.
- Laser treatment – Laser treatment is an effective method of addressing various skin conditions including rosacea. It can reduce rosacea symptoms including redness, the appearance of blood vessels, and the thickening of the skin.
For laser therapy in Toronto, turn to Laser Essential & Skin Care. Our laser treatments are done with a new technology called Zimmer Cryo Chiller, designed for comfort and efficacy. Visit our website or call us at (416) 226-0744 to inquire about prices, products, and other skin care services.