Rosacea: A Common Skin Condition
Red in the face: This brings up thoughts of embarrassed blushing, fuming from anger, a burn from too much sun, or rosy cheeks from exposure to the cold. For some people, however, a red face is more of a fixture. Consistent problematic redness across the bridge of the nose and onto the cheeks is known as rosacea, a common and treatable skin condition.
Rosacea is always present on the face and is often mistaken for eczema or acne. It may come on as just redness to the skin but may also involve pustules. The cheeks and nose are the most common areas involved, while the forehead and chin are less commonly affected. Plain redness prevails as the typical appearance, but pustules or prominent blood vessels may appear. Occasionally, the tip of the nose becomes bulbous along with the redness (think W.C. Fields). Most people have no associated discomfort with the skin changes, but some report an irritated sensation. Sometimes, the eyes can feel dry along with the presence of the rash.
We're still at a loss as to what exactly what causes rosacea, but recent research has determined that it is an inflammatory condition with a strong likelihood that both genetic and environmental factors are responsible. Rosacea flares may be brought out by stress, alcohol, hot food/drink, spicy food, extreme temperature exposure, or certain components of lotions or other agents applied to facial skin. Also, certain blood pressure medications have been known to worsen symptoms of rosacea. While alcohol can cause flares, chronic alcohol use does not bring about rosacea or the associated red and bulbous nose - as is commonly thought.
Rosacea usually begins between the ages of 30 and 60 and is more common in fair-complected people and those with family members who have the condition. Rosacea usually comes on mild and worsens with time and subsequent flares. For this reason, it is important to address rosacea soon after it is discovered.
Although there is no cure for rosacea, it can be treated. Interestingly, even though it is not an infectious problem, the most effective therapy is an antibiotic called metronidazole. Metronidazole comes in both a topical (gel) form and a pill. The pill is generally considered more effective, and I have observed this in my practice. One drawback of the pill is that consumption of alcohol while on the medication will cause severe vomiting. Retin A has also been used with some success. Alternative therapies such as colloidal silver and oregano oil have been reported to help but have not been studied scientifically.
The hallmark of preventing rosacea flares is to identify causal factors among those listed above. Avoiding drying of the skin of the face helps and can be accomplished by using a hypoallergenic moisturizer after bathing/showering.
Rosacea is a common cause of facial redness which can be annoying and sometimes disfiguring. While there is no cure, a certain antibiotic may improve symptoms. Avoidance of causal factors is also important in preventing flares. It is important to seek treatment early as the condition tends to worsen with time.