Back to School: A Rosacea Primer

Posted on: 08/26/2014

The end of summer means the start of school for many across the country. For those with rosacea, especially mothers, it can also be a reminder of their condition as the stress of back-to-school activities may also bring on flare-ups.

If you have rosacea and haven't revisited the facts in a while -- or may have never thoroughly educated yourself on the disorder -- start this time of year right with a mini refresher course on Rosacea 101:

What is rosacea?
Rosacea is a chronic and potentially life-disruptive disorder primarily of the facial skin, often characterized by redness, stinging, and bumps and pimples. Symptoms may come and go, and tend to worsen over time. Sometimes called the "Curse of the Celts," rosacea is common in men and women of Celtic and northern European descent, but is suffered by people of all races and ethnicities. Many sufferers may not be aware that rosacea is also divided into common patterns of signs and symptoms, known as subtypes, and that treatment must be tailored for each individual case. Learn more.

What causes rosacea?
Although the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, various theories about the disorder's origin have evolved over the years. Facial blood vessels may dilate too easily, and the increased blood near the skin surface makes the skin appear red and flushed. Various lifestyle and environmental factors -- called triggers -- can increase this redness response. Acne-like bumps may also appear, often in the redder area of the central face. This may be due to factors related to blood flow, skin bacteria, microscopic skin mites (Demodex), irritation of follicles, sun damage of the connective tissue under the skin, an abnormal immune or inflammatory response, or psychological factors.

How is rosacea treated?
The signs and symptoms of rosacea vary substantially from one patient to another, and treatment must therefore be tailored by a physician for each individual case. Some patients are troubled by redness and flushing, while others may also have bumps and pimples, thickening of the skin, or the eye irritation of ocular rosacea.

For patients with bumps and pimples, doctors often prescribe oral and/or topical rosacea therapy, and prescription therapy to reduce facial redness is now also available. When appropriate, laser treatment or other surgical procedures may be used to remove visible blood vessels, or correct disfigurement of the nose. Eye symptoms are commonly treated with oral antibiotics and ophthalmic therapy.

Avoidance of rosacea triggers, such as sun exposure, emotional stress, alcohol and spicy foods, is also beneficial in treating rosacea, as is making specific lifestyle changes such as reducing stress or changing your skin care regimen. In combination with medical therapy, these factors have been a part of many patients’ success stories.

While rosacea can’t be cured, it can be effectively managed. If you think you have rosacea, see a dermatologist or other doctor to get a professional diagnosis and appropriate therapy. Then, use our Rosacea Diary to help identify and avoid your individual environmental and lifestyle triggers.