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Rosacea is an inflammatory disease that causes redness of the face. Some of its symptoms can be mistaken for acne, such as the small red pus-filled bumps or pustules, and is even called adult acne or acne rosacea. It is, however, quite different from the pimples and blackheads that afflict teenagers. It afflicts adults between the ages of 30 and 60, especially those with fair skin, and is more common in women than in men. Rosacea is not life-threatening and will not affect your overall health, but it can be unsightly and affect your appearance and self-esteem. Rosacea generally gets worse over time, but it comes and goes in periods of flare-ups and remissions. Rosacea is very treatable, but often goes untreated because it is mistaken for other skin conditions such as acne, skin allergies, or eczema.


The signs and symptoms of rosacea can include red areas on your face that often give the appearance of wind-burned or chapped skin. You may also develop small red, round, raised bumps, called papules, on your nose, cheeks, forehead and chin. It is these papules that are often mistaken for pimples. Some people display a red, bulbous nose, and visible red blood vessels on the surface of the skin, which are often mistakenly considered a sign of excessive drinking. You may also have a burning or gritty sensation in your eyes, which is called ocular rosacea, and you will probably find that you blush or become flushed easily.

There are usually three stages in the development of rosacea. It begins with a stage called pre-rosacea, which can be as subtle as a tendency to blush or flush easily. That tendency then progresses to persistent, rather than intermittent, redness of certain areas of your face, especially your nose. You turn red because of the dilation of blood vessels close to the surface of your skin. The second stage of rosacea is known as vascular rosacea; during this stage, the small blood vessels in your nose and cheeks swell and become visible. Your skin many be very sensitive in this stage, and your vascular rosacea may also result in or be accompanied by oily skin or dandruff. The final stage of rosacea is the most advance and painful and is known as inflammatory rosacea. In this stage, the small red bumps or pustules may appear and persist. They may spread across your nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin, giving a thick and dark red appearance.

In some severe but rare cases, the sebaceous glands in your nose or cheeks can become enlarged, giving them a swollen appearance resulting from the build-up of tissue on and around your nose. This complication is called rhinophyma and is much more common in men than women. It develops gradually over the course of years. Half the people who suffer from rosacea, both men and women, experience ocular rosacea, which is experienced as a burning, irritated sensation in the eyes. This occurs because the inner skin of the eyelids becomes inflamed and scaly, resulting in conjunctivitis, or infections of the membranes lining the eyes.
Image: Rosacea


It is not known what causes rosacea, but most theories believe that it is probably due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. It may be that rosacea is the result of a disorder of the blood vessels, which causes the vessels in the face to swell. Another possibility is that it is produced by a chronic bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract, possibly caused by a Heliobacter pylori infection. Other researchers say that tiny mites living in human hair follicles may clog the oil glands of the face. Many fair-skinned people, those most at risk of rosacea, ore also at risk for sun damage, and some people think that there may be a connection between rosacea and sun damage. However, despite what many people think, alcohol does not cause rosacea. Alcohol may worsen the flushing of the skin and the dilation of the blood vessels, but people who do not drink at all may in fact get rosacea.

Even though doctors do not know what causes rosacea, there are some things that can make it worse. They do this by increasing blood flow to the surface of your skin. Some things that can do that include hot foods or beverages, spicy foods, alcohol, extreme heat or cold, exposure to too much sun, anger or embarrassment or other emotional reactions that make you blush, strenuous exercise, hot baths or saunas, treatments with corticosteroids or other drugs that dilate blood vessels.


Rosacea can be treated, but it will not clear up without treatment. Unfortunately, it often goes untreated for long periods of time due to the difficulty of diagnosing it. If you experience peristent redness of your face, even if you think your condition is something other than rosacea, you should see your doctor or dermatologist, who can tell you more certainly what your condition is and what treatment it requires.

In many cases, your attempts to take care of your skin without the supervision of a doctor can actually make rosacea worse, since many skin-care products contain acids, alcohol and other irritants. Consultation is especially important because of the progressive nature of rosacea; the longer you go without treatment, the worse the condition can get, and treatments are more effective if they are started early in the course of the condition.

Rosacea can’t be eliminated altogether, but there are effective treatments to relieve its symptoms. Your dermatologist may recommend moisturizers, soaps, sunscreens and other topical products to improve the health of your skin. You may also be given topical antibiotics, in part to ease the inflammation and redness of your skin, and oral antibiotics, which can ease the inflammation from the inside. Some of the most common antibiotic treatments include tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline, and erythromycin. These oral antibiotics are often effective for ocular rosacea, as well. In some cases, enlarged blood vessels and the accumulation of tissue can be relieved by laser surgery and electrosurgery, and may reduce the visibility of blood vessels and tissue and improve your appearance.
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