Rosacea: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Updated 05/15/19
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If you've noticed a red flush to your cheeks, visible blood vessels on your skin, or visible red blood vessels that branch across your face, you could be suffering from rosacea (pronounced roh-ZAY-sha), a common skin ailment that, according to the National Rosacea Society, affects about 14 million Americans. Rosacea mostly affects people over the age of 30 and can be controlled with topical treatments or laser treatments. It's not life-threatening and many people have it (including former President Bill Clinton and Prince William). Here, we run down the basics.

Causes

The causes of rosacea are unknown, but several theories abound, including sun damage, blood vessels too near the skin's surface, and ethnicity. Research shows that rosacea mainly affects people of both sexes over the age of 30, as well as people with fair skin. People of Irish or English descent may be more susceptible to rosacea. Because rosacea is a somewhat mysterious ailment, not many people are aware of it or know they have it.

The emotional effects of rosacea can be far worse than the physical effects. In a study reported by the National Rosacea Society, nearly 70 percent of rosacea patients said it lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem. About 41 percent said the condition caused them to avoid public contact or cancel social engagements.

Signs and Symptoms

Ruddiness, redness to cheeks, chin, and forehead are common symptoms of rosacea. The redness may come and go and although it appears mostly on the face, it can also show up on the neck, ears, and chest. There are several subtypes of rosacea. In the early stages, cheeks easily flush or appear constantly sunburned. Visible blood vessels may develop on the skin.

More developed types can involve bumps or pimples on the cheeks. A more severe form is seen mostly in men and shows up as a thickening of skin around the nose (think W.C. Fields and his trademark bulbous nose). This is called rhinophyma. There is no set proof that rosacea worsens, so if you suffer from redness, you won't necessarily develop a bulbous nose if your rosacea goes untreated.

Treatments

Rosacea can't be cured, but in most cases, it's easily controlled with topical antibiotics including MetroGel, Rosac, and oral antibiotics. Lasers can zap broken blood vessels and treat the overall redness. Better lasers are being developed each year.

To control flare-ups, doctors recommend usage of a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (look for sunscreens with Mexoryl or Helioplex). If you are suffering from rosacea, you should consult a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment options. A dermatologist can tailor the best treatment for your skin condition.

For a quick way to cover-up your redness, simply choose a thicker foundation. Light formulations don't offer enough coverage, but a thicker one will work better.

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