CHICAGO (April 1, 2005) -- An estimated 14 million Americans suffer from an embarrassing and potentially serious facial disorder known as rosacea, but most of them don't know it. April has been designated Rosacea Awareness Month by the National Rosacea Society to alert the public to its warning signs and to encourage those who may suffer from this widespread acne-like condition to seek diagnosis and treatment before it increasingly disrupts their daily lives.
While millions are now affected by rosacea, its impact is on the rise as the populous baby boomers -- one in four Americans -- enter the most dangerous years for developing this chronic and often progressive disorder. Despite its prevalence, a Gallup survey found that 78 percent of the public has no knowledge of this condition, including how to recognize it and what to do about it.
"The early signs of rosacea are often mistaken for something else, such as sunburn or acne, so many rosacea sufferers fail to realize they have a medical condition that can be treated, or they assume it's a temporary complexion problem that will eventually go away by itself," said Dr. Larry Millikan, chairman of dermatology at Tulane University. "Unfortunately, without medical help rosacea tends to become progressively worse -- and can have a substantial impact both physically and on people's emotional, social and professional lives."
In recent surveys by the National Rosacea Society, nearly 70 percent of rosacea patients said this unsightly disorder had lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem, and 41 percent reported it had caused them to avoid public contact or cancel social engagements. Among those with severe symptoms, nearly 30 percent said they had even missed work because of their condition.
Rosacea is a chronic disorder that primarily affects the cheeks, chin, nose or central forehead, and is often characterized by flare-ups and remissions. It typically first appears at any time after age 30 as a flushing or redness that comes and goes.
Over time, the redness becomes ruddier and more persistent, and visible blood vessels may appear. Bumps and pimples often develop, and in some people the eyes feel irritated and appear bloodshot. In other cases, the nose may become swollen and enlarged from excess tissue. Without treatment, each of these potential signs and symptoms may progress from mild to moderate to severe.
Because rosacea varies from one individual to another, medical experts recently identified four subtypes to aid in its diagnosis as well as to improve future research on this widespread but little-known condition. These "four faces of rosacea" represent common patterns of signs and symptoms, and are part of the new standard classification system for rosacea, developed by a consensus committee and review panel of 17 rosacea experts and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
"Most of us see faces of rosacea among the crowds of people we encounter every day, and the new subtypes should go a long way toward helping the public and their health care providers recognize this conspicuous but treatable condition," Dr. Millikan said. Individuals with any of the following signs and symptoms are urged to see a dermatologist:
In a recent survey of 1,231 rosacea patients by the National Rosacea Society, 72 percent reported that their rosacea had evolved from one subtype to another, and 77 percent said they had experienced more than one subtype at the same time.
Adding to the embarrassment of rosacea's effect on personal appearance is a common myth that rosacea sufferers, who often have a red face and nose, are alcoholics. In fact, while alcohol may aggravate the condition, the symptoms can be just as severe in a teetotaler. Another common misconception is that rosacea is caused by poor hygiene, while in reality the disorder is unrelated to personal cleanliness.
"The good news is that, while rosacea cannot be cured, it can be effectively controlled with medical therapy and lifestyle changes," Dr. Millikan said. "With greater knowledge of its potential signs and symptoms, physicians should be able to achieve significant improvements in the diagnosis and management of this chronic and often life-disruptive disorder."
Because the underlying causes and other key aspects of rosacea are unknown, the National Rosacea Society has established a research grants program to encourage and support greater scientific knowledge of this poorly understood disorder. The society is now funding a growing number of new studies on rosacea that may lead to improvements in its treatment, management and potential cure or prevention.
During April and throughout the year, the National Rosacea Society has adopted a new "Remember Rosacea" ribbon symbol to promote greater awareness of this widespread disorder. Individuals who suspect they may have rosacea can call the society's toll-free number at 1-888-NO-BLUSH to receive free information on rosacea and Rosacea Review, a newsletter for rosacea patients. The society also offers a rosacea diary booklet to help rosacea sufferers identify and avoid lifestyle and environmental factors that may aggravate the condition or trigger flare-ups in individual cases, as well as a booklet called "Understanding Rosacea" with comprehensive information on the disorder.
Further information and educational materials may also be obtained by writing the National Rosacea Society, 800 S. Northwest Highway, Suite 200, Barrington, Illinois 60010, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information and materials are also available on the society's Web site at www.rosacea.org.
The National Rosacea Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of people with rosacea by raising awareness, providing public health information and supporting medical research on this widespread but little-known disorder. The information the Society provides should not be considered medical advice, nor is it intended to replace
consultation with a qualified physician. The Society does not evaluate, endorse or recommend any particular medications, products, equipment or treatments. Rosacea may vary substantially from one patient to another, and treatment must be tailored by a physician for each individual case. For more information, visit About Us.