April is Rosacea Awareness Month. Rosacea affects more than 16 million Americans, nearly 5% of Americans. Rosacea is not very well known relative to how common the condition is. In this article, we’re going to be looking at two things: Whether you might have rosacea, and the signs of progression to look for, and how to support friends and family who have rosacea.
What is Rosacea?
Rosacea seems to be the common condition that nobody knows anything about. It affects over 15 million Americans, and in some countries, it is estimated that up to 1 in 10 people may show signs of rosacea. Rosacea is a chronic condition characterized by facial redness of the central face. Dilated blood vessels, acne-like lesions, flushing of the face, and inflammation are the most common symptoms of rosacea, but in some cases, the eyes can become affected, and in advanced rosacea, disfigurement of the nose can also occur. Rosacea can also be a progressive condition that can gradually become more severe if left untreated. How quickly Rosacea progresses, or whether it does progress is highly individual. However, prompt diagnosis and treatment are always recommended.
- Redness of the face, especially the cheeks, nose, and forehead
- Small visible blood vessels on the surface of the face
- Eye irritation
- Acne-like bumps
The most important question for people is, “do I have rosacea?” Although facial redness is considered the hallmark symptom of rosacea and since that’s also a universal reaction to alcohol, social embarrassment or anger, stress, allergies, and a host of other environmental factors, it’s not always easy to pin down rosacea. Redness is on a continuum, as everyone will experience facial redness to some degree at many points in their life for a variety of reasons.
The key is to recognize prolonged facial redness that doesn’t fade over time. While everyone will experience facial redness, it’s usually a temporary physiological response. When the redness takes longer and longer to fade, or becomes semi-permanent, it’s time to book an appointment with a dermatologist to get a proper diagnosis. Rosacea can be a progressive condition that worsens over time without appropriate treatment and management, so it’s important to see your doctor.
The Challenge of Managing Rosacea and Providing Support
The other aspect of chronic skin conditions is that, for patients, it’s more than a set of instructions about how to apply treatment. Chronic skin conditions like rosacea affect social interactions, and patients are often very conscious of their skin concerns. Rosacea is often triggered (the symptoms take a turn for the worse) by sun exposure, vigorous exercise, exposure to heat, consumption of spicy foods, alcohol, and sudden changes in temperature. Most activities that would cause temporary facial redness in people without rosacea can act as triggers that significantly worsen rosacea symptoms. Exactly what worsens rosacea symptoms varies from individual to individual, but avoiding all of these triggers entirely is often not a realistic option.
This means that people who have rosacea need to be conscious of everyday activities that can threaten to worsen their symptoms. Unlike most people, the effects may be long-lasting, and cosmetically problematic for people with moderate or severe rosacea. If you’ve ever had experience with moderate to severe acne at some point, you’ll understand well that it’s a bigger deal than what other people tell you it is. If you are supporting a friend or family member with Rosacea, don’t minimize their concern. While you surely mean well, it’s important to understand that rosacea is likely not trivial for them.
Finally, recent studies have found a correlation between Rosacea and other potentially serious conditions like certain cancers and high blood pressure. There is still much to be learned about the various factors that play into this, thus it’s another reason why proper diagnosis is important.
Visit the National Rosacea Society to learn more about Rosacea Awareness Month.