Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

What is Rosacea

Rosacea can occur at any age, but usually occurs in adults older than 30 years. This common skin condition usually affects the cheeks, forehead, nose and chin. Rosacea can be accompanied by frequent flushing, persistent redness of central areas of the face, and in some people, acne-like spots or pimples and telangiectasia (dilated blood vessels).

Occasionally, some people may experience some swelling of the facial skin. In rare, severe cases, an overgrowth of oil-secreting glands on the nose may cause thickening of the skin. The nose may appear swollen, red, with enlarged pores; the medical term for this is Rhinophyma. Rhinophyma is found more commonly in men than women.

In some people with rosacea, the eyes may also be affected. Signs and symptoms may include: redness of different parts of the eye and eyelid, dryness, itching, burning, tearing, gritty sensation, light sensitivity and blurred vision.

What causes rosacea?

The exact cause of rosacea remains unclear as of yet, however, a number of theories have been proposed, which include the possible role of genetics, immune system factors, environmental triggers and the Demodex mite.

Potential rosacea triggers can include:

In some cases, people with rosacea, can have their symptoms triggered or made worse by exposure to ultraviolet light, high and low temperatures, stress, physical activity, alcohol, smoking, spicy food, and hot drinks.

What are the symptoms?

As already mentioned above, symptoms may include or incorporate a number of combinations of the following which affects the facial skin or central face (nose, cheeks, central forehead and chin): flushing, persistent redness, visible and dilated blood vessels, spots and pimples. Other possible symptoms may include, skin dryness, skin thickening or swelling, raised red patches, itchy, stinging or irritated skin and eye symptoms.

Rosacea is often categorised into one of four subtypes. Some people may experience symptoms of more than one type. Your doctor will advise you on the type of rosacea you have.

When to contact your GP?

There are different types of rosacea, and some people may experience an overlap of one or more signs and symptoms of this skin condition. Each individual sign and symptom may progress from mild to moderate to severe. Therefore, it is important to visit your GP for an assessment, diagnosis, appropriate advice and treatment or onward referral to a dermatologist if required.

Visiting a doctor will provide an impartial opinion about the severity of your symptoms, what kind of skin care/treatment may help you and reassurance about how common rosacea is. Rosacea can resemble other dermatology skin conditions; therefore, it is important to get a diagnosis from your GP.

Treatments for rosacea

Topical treatments

Topical treatments provide the mainstay of therapy for many individuals with this condition and maybe used alone or in combination with an oral medication. They have various active ingredients to treat the inflammatory component of the rosacea. When using topical treatments, these are usually applied to the areas affected by rosacea and not just to individual spots.

Systemic treatments

May be prescribed in circumstances where the rosacea is more severe or where topical treatments have not worked, or are not recommended. These treatments are oral antibiotics. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a topical treatment and oral treatment together (combination therapy).

For severe rosacea that responds poorly to prescribed treatment, referral to a dermatologist may be considered for assessment and further treatment. In severe cases of rosacea where the symptoms of acne like spots (papules and pustules) do not respond to oral antibiotics, other systemic treatment may be considered but is prescribed under specialised supervision due to the potential for side effects, and strict monitoring required while on this medication. Other treatments Individuals with eye involvement symptoms (Ocular rosacea), may be referred to an ophthalmologist for further management. Laser and light devices are sometimes used in the treatment of rosacea; these treatments usually target the redness and broken veins (telangiectasia) of rosacea and are available in private dermatology clinics. Your doctor can advise you on whether this is an appropriate option for you. Cosmetic camouflage can be used to cover the skin.

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