What is rosacea, what treatment creams are there and what are the symptoms?

ROSACEA can be mistaken for blushing too easily, when in fact it’s a chronic skin condition.

It causes reddening on the cheeks, nose, chin and forehead.

The condition may affect between four and ten per cent of people, according to studies. Here we answer the main questions about it.

What is rosacea?

Rosacea – pronounced RO-ZAY-SHA – is characterised by a constant redness of the skin. It’s caused by the blood vessels underneath widening (dilating), as well as small bumps and pus-filled spots, the British Association of Dermatologists says. There are four types of the condition with slightly varying symptoms and severities. After a while, broken blood vessels might show through your skin, which can thicken and swell up. Up to half of people with rosacea also get eye problems like redness, swelling, and pain, which can cause visitation to blur.

Rosacea mainly affects women, although men get worse symptoms, such as thickening of skin on the nose. It is understood to be more common in people with light skin than dark skin.

What are the symptoms?

Although rosacea can affect all segments of the population and all skin types, those with fair skin who tend to blush easily are believed to be at greatest risk. Symptoms of rosacea often begin with episodes of skin flushing or blushing, where the skin turns red for a short period.

The NHS says the first symptoms of rosacea are:

  • redness (blushing) across the face that comes and goes
  • a burning or stinging feeling when using water or skincare products

As rosacea gets worse, the cheeks, nose, skin and forehead will be red all the time.

Tiny broken blood vessels appear underneath the skin and don't go away.

Other symptoms of the condition include:

  • dry skin
  • swelling, especially around the eyes
  • yellow-orange patches on the skin
  • sore eyelids or crusts around roots of eyelashes – this could be blepharitis

Other primary symptoms can develop as the condition progresses, such as:

  • burning and stinging sensations
  • permanent redness
  • small blood vessels in the skin becoming visible
  • spots (papules and pustules)
  • thickened skin, mainly on the nose (usually appears after many years)

How is rosacea diagnosed and is there a cure?

Rosacea is diagnosed through a visual examination and a look at your medical history. There is no specific test for the condition. You should see your GP if you have persistent symptoms as early diagnosis and treatment can stop the condition getting worse. However, there is no cure for it – it can only be controlled.

What causes the condition and what can trigger flare ups?

It’s not clear what causes rosacea, but there are some theories. Some believe rosacea is due to bacteria on the skin or in the gut – but this has not been proven. It could be genetic, considering the condition runs in families. Rosacea can be sun sensitive, as it is theorised the sun can make blood vessels dilate further. The NHS recommends wearing a high SPF sunscreen every day and staying out of sunlight if possible.

What can help rosacea?

The good thing is rosacea patients can look at typical triggers to see if it makes their own skin flare up. These include alcohol, exercise, high and low temperatures, hot drinks, spicy foods and stress.  The NHS says to avoid these, as well as too much caffeine or cheese. Intense exercise may also worsen the symptoms and people with rosacea should avoid anything aerobic – like running. 

How do you treat the condition?

Unfortunately there is not a cure for this skin condition, which can cause low self-esteem in those who have it. Long-term treatment in the form of cream or oral medication is usually the only option to control the condition. In some cases procedures such as laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment may be helpful. These involve beams of light being aimed at the visible blood vessels in the skin to shrink them and make them less visible. Mirvaso is a gel developed to treat rosacea which works by narrowing the blood vessels and significantly reduces symptoms associated with the skin condition. The gel is easy to use and can be applied daily. Antibiotics are also an option, with erythromycin and tetracycline the most commonly prescribed. They are usually recommended in very severe cases and they have to be taken for several weeks to take effect. Antibiotics cannot be taken on a permanent basis and they are not suitable for patients with liver problems. Metronidazole gel and azelaic acid are topical rosacea treatments which are applied to the skin to fight inflammation. They are also used to reduce the occurrence of spots and pimples rather than stopping the blood vessel widening which causes rosacea. Isotretinoin is an acne medication that is sometimes prescribed for rosacea. It can have significant side effects and is only recommended for patients with severe skin conditions. As one of the symptoms of rosacea is thickened skin a patient’s appearance can be significantly affected. Surgical procedures can be used to reconstruct damaged tissue or remodel the nose in severe cases.

Which famous faces suffer from the condition?

Famous rosacea suffers include:

  • Prince William, who possibly inherited it from his mum Princess Diana
  • Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon
  • Former US President Bill Clinton
  • US actress Renee Zellweger
  • Hollywood starlet Cameron Diaz
  • Model Dita Von Teese
  • Singer Sam Smith
  • TV star and celebrity chef Lisa Faulkner

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