Rosacea sufferers may feel dismay when the conspicuous and embarrassing symptoms of a flare-up appear for the first time. But if they resist accepting that they have a medical disorder, sufferers may be turning what could be an easily managed situation into one of considerable psychological distress as their condition worsens.1
"Accepting yourself as you are is important mentally for all people," said Dr. Thomas Cash, professor, Department of Psychology, Old Dominion University. "But it is particularly crucial for rosacea patients, who may otherwise find themselves in a downward spiral of frustration that can actually contribute to flare-ups."
Rosacea is a chronic and progressive disease of remissions and flare-ups. Sometimes mistaken for acne vulgaris, which typically strikes teenagers, rosacea usually first strikes adults in their 30s, 40s or 50s as a redness on the cheeks, nose, chin and/or forehead that comes and goes. But unlike teenage acne, rosacea rarely goes away by itself.
Left untreated, the redness tends to become more pronounced and permanent. Tiny visible blood vessels are common, and bumps and pimples often develop. In advanced cases, the nose may grow swollen from excess tissue, a condition called rhinophyma, and the eyes may become irritated and bloodshot.
"People who resist acknowledging an undesired situation often fear unwelcome, possibly cumbersome and/or time-consuming lifestyle changes," said Dr. Cash. "They should recognize that quite often the effect of accepting the situation is just the opposite -- coping techniques progress more smoothly, and negative results are minimized."
While studies have shown that rosacea often advances rapidly if left untreated, research has also shown that its progression can be halted and its symptoms reversed with long-term medical therapy and lifestyle changes.
There is an astonishing array of lifestyle factors that may trigger flare-ups in various individuals, including the sun, stress, hot and cold weather, alcohol, spicy food and certain skin-care products, among others.
In addition to avoiding risk factors, a growing body of scientific evidence has consistently found that compliance with prescribed medical therapy has improved symptoms for the vast majority of sufferers.
Dermatologists often prescribe both oral and topical antibiotics to bring rosacea under control rapidly. However, due to the side effects often associated with oral antibiotic therapy, long-term treatment is usually recommended with topical antibiotics alone. Incorporating topical therapy into a twice-daily facial care routine is a painless and efficient way to comply with doctor's orders.
"Once you accept that you have rosacea, its management falls into place," Dr. Cash said. "Don't short-circuit clear skin and normal appearance by vain denial or resisting treatment."
Cash T. What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror? New York: Bantam, 1995