Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, but understanding common causes, symptoms, and treatments can help make life with rosacea less stressful.
Rosacea starts simple: most people’s first symptom is increased skin flushing or blushing. Rosacea’s symptoms are largely on the face and with time manifest as skin redness on the ears, chest, and back. Other rosacea symptoms can be grouped into 4 subtypes distinguished by what parts of the body they affect and how they appear. The most common form of rosacea is characterized by a red, flushed look with visible blood vessels on the face. Other forms of rosacea are also notable for skin redness, but may also cause skin to thicken and become bumpy, or cause acne-like pustules to form. Another, rarer subtype of rosacea affects the eyes, causing redness and swelling of the eyelid that resembles a sty.
Rosacea is not an uncommon skin condition. It’s estimated that over 14 million Americans have rosacea. Unfortunately, the root cause of rosacea is not yet understood. Scientists have a general understanding of rosacea, and can identify traits that make it more likely, however.
The first commonly accepted fact about rosacea is its hereditary nature. If someone in your immediate family has rosacea, you’re more likely to have it as well. While it’s unclear whether rosacea is genetic, it is possible that certain rosacea-containing genes can be passed down.
Another possible cause of rosacea is in the body’s immune system. Most people with rosacea have an extreme immune response to a common type of bacteria called bacillus oleronius. It’s theorized that the immune system does too much work when it reacts to the bacteria’s presence on the skin. This damages skin and blood vessels in the process, causing redness and inflammation.
A bacteria called H pylori, a common cause of intestinal problems, seems to occur more in people with rosacea. While people who don’t have rosacea can have H pylori present in their system, it may play a role in triggering rosacea.
Whether or not you want to believe it, we all have microscopic mites living on our skin and in our body. One common mite called demodex often lives on the nose and cheeks. Some studies have shown that people with rosacea have a higher concentration of the demodex mite living on their skin in the affected area.
While all of these causes are possible, it’s unlikely that any one single thing causes rosacea. Like other skin conditions, rosacea appears to have triggers. A trigger is an environmental factor that can cause an outbreak of a skin condition. Common rosacea triggers include: sun damage, exposure to cold and/or consistent wind, eating spicy foods, or becoming overheated. Taking steps to avoid these common triggers will usually help to reduce your rosacea’s flare ups and severity.
While rosacea cannot be cured until its true cause is isolated, there are plenty of simple treatments your dermatologist can offer to ease your rosacea symptoms. Rosacea treatment works to ease discomfort and reduce or even eliminate the appearance of rosacea on your skin.
A dermatologist can offer you a multitude of solutions for your particular rosacea subtype. Generalized redness responds well to many topical creams and even certain laser therapies. Laser therapies can also work on the pustular form of rosacea, in addition to topical ointments and oral antibiotics. If your rosacea causes skin thickening, isotretinoin (an oral medication) is sometimes used to prevent skin from further thickening. Surgery is required to remove thickened skin and it can be complex. If you notice phyma (or thickening skin) from rosacea, it’s important to reach out to a professional dermatologist as soon as possible to avoid the need for surgery.
If you’re suffering from rosacea, you aren’t alone. If you’re tired of skin redness, irritation, or the more severe effects of rosacea, contact your New England dermatologist today.