If you suffer with rosacea, I don’t need to tell you how frustrating - even emotionally distressing - it is on a day to day basis. But what exactly is rosacea, what causes it, and how do you treat it? Dr Harmony answers all your rosacea questions in this handy article.
What is rosacea?
Rosacea (roe-ZAY-she-uh) is a common, long-term (chronic) inflammatory skin condition mainly affecting the centre of the face. It often starts between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.
Rosacea causes redness and visible blood vessels in the skin, as well as small, red pus-filled bumps. These bumps can get worse over weeks or months, and then improve and disappear for some time. Rosacea is often mistaken for acne or other skin care problems.
What are the signs of rosacea?
Typically, the first appearance of rosacea is a redness across the cheeks, forehead and nose. However, in skin of colour, this early sign may be less obvious.
Patients often describe a burning or stinging sensation when using water or certain skincare products. They may have dry, swollen skin with patches of dusky brown discolouration and acne-like breakouts resistant to typical acne treatment.
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis before commencing treatment.
What causes rosacea?
There is no clear cause of rosacea, however there are several theories of the cause, including genetic factors, environmental, blood vessel disorders and inflammatory conditions.
What to avoid
So, is there anything I can avoid in order to help relieve or prevent rosacea? Some patients find there are some triggers to their rosacea, including alcohol, sun exposure, spicy foods, cheese, coffee and exercise.
How is rosacea diagnosed?
If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, it’s important to find out if you have rosacea. Often a clinician can make a diagnosis of rosacea by an examination alone. However, in cases of uncertainty, a small tissue sample can be taken as a biopsy to confirm the condition.
Whilst rosacea cannot be cured, treatment can help control the symptoms, reduce flare-ups and prevent rosacea from worsening. Let's take a look at a few of the most common ways to treat rosacea...
Where possible, factors that trigger rosacea should be avoided. This may include avoiding oil-based face cream and switching, instead, to water-based make-up. Proper skincare is essential to reduce exacerbations, and moisturisers are key in improving the barrier function of the skin. Sun protection is essential, and again oil-free sunscreens are helpful. Avoid steroid creams, as they can worsen rosacea. Other ingredients to avoid in skincare are alcohol and fragrances, as these can further dry out the skin.
Tetracycline antibiotics like doxycycline can help reduce the redness and papule from rosacea. They are often prescribed between 6-16 weeks, and repeated courses may be needed from time to time.
When it comes to topical treatments, metronidazole creams or gels can be used for mild rosacea or in combination with oral antibiotic tablets in severe cases. Topical retinoids can be used to promote connective tissue remodelling and improve the appearance of redness and papules.
Small linear blood vessels (telangiectasia) may be successfully improved with vascular laser or intense pulse light (IPL) treatment. Some of these treatments are likely to need the input of your doctor or a dermatologist (skin specialist doctor).
When to see your doctor about rosacea
Skincare is a fundamental treatment in helping to manage rosacea. However, if you’re yet to have a diagnosis with your skin, or your current regime isn’t working, it is important to see your doctor or dermatologist for further investigations and treatments to get things back under control.