Most people assume rosy cheeks are a sign of good health, but adults with skin that flushes, blushes easily and breaks out over the middle of the face may have a skin condition called rosacea. It is a common chronic skin condition that can affect all types of skin, but is most frequently seen with fair skin. Rosacea most often starts after age 30 as temporary redness of the cheeks, nose and chin. With time, the redness can become persistent, and enlarged blood vessels may appear. If left untreated, pimples and red bumps can develop. In advanced forms of rosacea, the skin can become thickened with enlarged pores and a coarse “orange peel” quality. Complaints of burning, stinging and overall sensitivity are very common. Rosacea can also affect the eyes, causing irritation, grittiness, redness and visual loss in the most severe cases.
There is no cure for rosacea, but advice from a dermatologist is helpful because therapy can relieve skin symptoms and delay the progression of the skin changes. Since symptoms may vary from person to person, rosacea treatment is typically tailored to each individual. There are several topical and oral medications used to control the acne-like breakouts seen with rosacea. Most work by reducing inflammation in the skin that leads to the redness and breakouts. Within the past year, the FDA approved another topical gel for rosacea that shrinks facial blood vessels for up to 12 to 14 hours of redness relief from rosacea sufferers. However, this is a prescription medication and not suitable for everyone with rosacea, so it’s best to discuss a good plan of treatment plan with your dermatologist.
For the enlarged blood vessels, a series of laser or light treatments can be helpful to reduce facial redness and improve the quality of the skin. Popular treatments for redness include the pulsed dye or KTP laser and the Intense Pulsed Light. Treatments typically take about 10 minutes. Although the skin is redder for several hours or can be bruised or swollen for a day or two after the treatment, people can usually go back to routine activities quickly.
A good skincare regimen with a gentle cleanser and moisturizer is essential to soothe the irritation so often seen with rosacea. There are several good fragrance-free cleansers and non-comedogenic (which means they won’t clog pores) moisturizers that are available at the local drugstore. Occasionally, rosacea causes so much skin irritation that almost everything put on the skin causes burning. In these cases, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist to develop a customized skincare regimen.
In addition to the advice and treatments provided by a dermatologist, people can modify their lifestyle to slow the progression of rosacea. Flare-ups can be minimized by avoiding factors that aggravate or trigger facial redness such as excessive sun or heat exposure, cold exposure and certain foods. A complete list of known rosacea triggers can been found at the website for the National Rosacea Society.