Dermatologists report that the incidence of rosacea, which currently affects an estimated 13 million Americans, appears to be rapidly increasing now that the 77 million members of the baby boom generation have entered the most susceptible age. To encourage wider knowledge of this disorder, the National Rosacea Society has joined the "information highway" to add yet another way for rosacea sufferers to obtain information on their condition.
For the growing number of households with personal computers and online access, the Society inaugurated a World Wide Web site on the Internet as part of this year's Rosacea Awareness Month in April. A broad range of information on rosacea as well as support materials and Rosacea Review are now available online at http://www.rosacea.org.
Rosacea sufferers or those who suspect they have the condition also may call the Society at 847/382-8971 to receive materials by mail, including a public service booklet, Rosacea Review, a tripwires chart and Patient Diary Checklist to help sufferers identify and avoid lifestyle factors that may trigger flare-ups in their individual cases.
According to a recent National Rosacea Society survey of more than 2,000 rosacea sufferers, 44 percent reported that their symptoms had first appeared in their 30s and 40s, and 43 percent first experienced rosacea after age 50. Now that the oldest members of the baby boom generation are turning 50 and the youngest are 32, they have fully reached the prime years for developing this troubling condition that can lead to permanent facial damage if left untreated.
Nonetheless, according to a Gallup survey, only 27 percent of Americans had heard of rosacea. Because of its acne-like effect on personal appearance, however, it can cause psychological and social problems in addition to its physical effects.
Rosacea is a chronic and progressive disorder of flare-ups and remissions that usually begins as a flushing or redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead. Left untreated, the redness tends to grow ruddier and more permanent. Small dilated blood vessels may become visible on the surface of the skin, and bumps and pimples often appear. In some individuals, the eyes may feel gritty and become bloodshot, while in advanced cases, the nose may grow swollen from excess tissue.
Rosacea can affect all segments of the population, particularly those with fair skin who tend to flush or blush easily. The disorder may be somewhat more common in women, but is often more severe in men -- perhaps because men tend to delay seeking medical help until the condition reaches advanced stages.
Though rosacea is sometimes referred to as "adult acne," it is a distinctly different and often more serious condition than acne vulgaris, which most commonly occurs during adolescence. While both conditions can cause pimples, rosacea requires different therapy -- acne treatments can actually make it worse -- and rosacea rarely goes away by itself.
As with many diseases, education and early intervention are the best defenses against rosacea. Although the condition cannot be prevented, it can be treated successfully with medical therapy available by prescription from dermatologists, along with lifestyle modifications to eliminate those factors that may trigger flare-ups in various individuals.
Thiboutot DM: Acne Rosacea. American Family Physician. December:1691-1697, 1994.