Does your face always look flushed? Do you have pimple-like bumps? You could have a chronic inflammatory skin condition known as rosacea. Currently, rosacea affects as many as 3 million Canadians and is one of the most common disorders seen by dermatologists. Anyone can be impacted by rosacea, although it typically affects more women than men, and generally develops in adults between the ages of 30 and 50. It can also affect individuals with any skin type, though those who are fair skinned (such as those who are of Northern or Eastern European descent) are much more at risk. The exact cause of rosacea is not known, but researchers believe it is caused by both genetic and environmental factors.
There are four different types of rosacea that one can be diagnosed with:
Erythemato-telangiectatic rosacea includes symptoms such as facial flushing and redness, as well as swelling, stining and burning of the affected areas. Papulo-pustular rosacea is marked by persisting redness and pimple-like bumps, and is sometimes easily mistaken for acne. Phymatous rosacea, which generally affects the nose, affects the oil glands which can cause the skin tissue to become thick and bumpy. Ocular rosacea not only causes redness, burning and stinging of the skin, but it may also affect the eyes, causing them to sting and feel dry (or watery), appear bloodshot, and you may also have sensitivity to light as well as blurred vision.
Certain lifestyle factors can contribute to the flare-up of rosacea symptoms – from what you eat, to exercise. Some of the most common food and beverage triggers include caffeine (coffee/tea), hot chocolate, alcohol, and spicy foods and seasonings. Extreme heat can also contribute to rosacea – for example, hot showers/baths, saunas, as well as exposure to the sun. If you are going to be outdoors, it’s recommended that you use an SPF with a value of at least 30 (or higher), and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Vigorous exercise is another factor to consider, as this can cause the body to overheat, which can trigger facial flushing. Stress is another very common trigger. If your mental health is affected in any way, it’s always important to reach out to your family physician so that they can provide you with the help you need – whether it’s prescribing medications to help reduce anxiety or referring you to outpatient therapy (i.e. a psychiatrist or psychologist.) Certain cosmetic products can also aggravate the symptoms of rosacea as they tend to contain irritating ingredients as well as fragrance, so choose products that are mild and dermatologist-recommended.
For some, depending in the severity of the condition, living with rosacea can be detrimental to their ability to carry out everyday activities. In fact, as many as three quarters of those diagnosed with rosacea have said they suffer from poor self-esteem. There are also many myths and misconceptions about rosacea – for example, some think it is a form of acne or due to poor hygiene; neither of which are true.
Treating rosacea can not only improve the visual symptoms, but can also improve the mood. If you suffer from rosacea, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, says the key to caring for your skin is to treat it gently. Always choose products that are free of alcohol and non-drying. When using cleanser, make sure it is mild, and avoid rubbing or scrubbing the skin. You should also moisturize your skin daily, especially when the air is dry or cooler. Unfortunately taking care of your skin isn’t enough to combat rosacea, as it’s not a condition that can go away on its own. You will also need additional treatment. Topical agents are also commonly used, one of the most common being Metronidazole. It contains both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, is available in cream, gel or lotion form, and can be used long-term. In more moderate to severe forms of rosacea, oral medications (such as tetracycline) may also be prescribed.