If you’re struggling with rosacea, you are all too familiar with its symptoms. This inflammatory skin disorder presents in different ways (depending on the type), but symptoms may include redness of the facial skin, sensitive skin that stings or burns, skin with a rough texture, thickening skin, or acne, to name a few. Most people with rosacea will experience some combination of symptoms.
What Causes Rosacea?
Although rosacea is common, with millions of sufferers, scientists have yet to pinpoint exact causes. However, there are some known clues. For starters, most people who get rosacea are between 30 and 50, fair-skinned, acne-prone — and women are more likely to get rosacea than men. However, virtually anyone can get it. We also know that:
- It runs in families. It’s very common for people with rosacea also to have family members with the disorder.
- It may be related to an overreaction of the immune system.
- In people with rosacea, flare-ups may be caused by sun exposure, alcohol, spicy foods, or stress.
There are other theories about what may cause rosacea, including the H pylori bug, the Demodex skin mite, or the way an individual’s body processes the protein cathelicidin. However, much more research is needed, as these are only theories at this point. For example, many people who do not have rosacea do have H pylori infections, so it’s difficult to prove the link.
Seasonal change can also aggravate rosacea. Summer is the most common season cited for causing flare-ups, but many people report that their symptoms are at their worst during the winter months.
Types of Treatments Available
If you’re suffering from rosacea, there are a number of treatments that can help. For starters, identifying your triggers and avoiding them is important. Pay attention to what causes your symptoms to worsen and behave accordingly; this may mean avoiding alcohol or reducing your stress level, for instance. If you notice, like many others, that your symptoms worsen during the summer, then making lifestyle changes such spending more time indoors or, when you’re in the sun, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or increasing sunscreen usage may help.
There are also medical treatments available. There is no cure for rosacea, but the following therapies can help control symptoms:
- Topical treatments: Prescription creams or gels can help soothe the redness and inflammation of rosacea.
- Oral medications: Antibiotics and other drugs such as those designed to treat acne may be effective in certain cases.
- Eye drops: Liquid tears can improve dry eyes caused by ocular rosacea (rosacea that affects the eyes).
- Laser treatments: Laser skin treatments can help reduce the appearance of visible blood vessels and redness.
- Surgery: In individuals with rhinophyma, a form of rosacea that causes swelling and thickening of the skin on the nose), surgery many be indicated.
If you are experiencing symptoms of rosacea, getting diagnosed by an experienced dermatologist is the first step in solving your problem.
Written by Dr. Shaughnessy a board certified in dermatology who attended Harvard University where she graduated with a degree in biochemical sciences and received the William Fahey House award. Her special interests include skin cancer, acne and rosacea as well as minimally invasive cosmetic procedures.