During Rosacea Awareness Month in April, the National Rosacea Society alerted the public to the warning signs of this chronic disorder affecting 14 million Americans, and encouraged individuals to seek medical help before it increasingly disrupts their lives.
"Rosacea is frustrating and baffling for so many people because its signs and symptoms may not only wax and wane unexpectedly, but often affect various individuals in ways few might imagine," said Dr. John Wolf, chairman of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine. "As a result, many fail to seek appropriate medical help until its conspicuous and potentially serious effects become severe."
Rosacea typically first appears after age 30; however, it may appear at any age, including in childhood. A sustained flush, blush or redness on the cheeks, nose, forehead or chin may come and go. Over time, the redness becomes ruddier and more persistent, and visible blood vessels (telangiectasia) may appear, a condition known as subtype 1 (erythematotelangiectatic) rosacea.
Bumps (papules) and pimples (pustules) often develop along with persistent redness, a pattern of symptoms known as subtype 2 (papulopustular) rosacea, which is frequently seen with or following subtype 1. Some individuals, especially men, develop subtype 3 (phymatous) rosacea, which is characterized by thickening of the skin and often results in enlargement of the nose from excess tissue.
In many patients, the eyes are also affected, a condition known as subtype 4 (ocular) rosacea. In these cases, the eyes may appear watery or bloodshot, and irritation, burning, stinging, dryness, itching and light sensitivity are common symptoms. Styes may occur in ocular rosacea, and in severe cases loss of vision may result from corneal complications.
Patients often experience characteristics of more than one subtype, and in most cases some rather than all potential signs and symptoms appear in any given individual.1
"The good news is that, while rosacea cannot be cured, it can be effectively controlled with medical therapy and lifestyle changes," Dr. Wolf said. Anyone with potential signs of rosacea is urged to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Rosacea is more frequently diagnosed in women, but tends to be more severe in men. While it may occur in all segments of the population, it seems to be especially common in people with fair skin who flush or blush easily.
In recent surveys, nearly 70 percent of rosacea patients said this disorder had lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem, and 41 percent reported it had caused them to avoid public or social contact.
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 the disorder. The Society is now funding a growing number of new studies on rosacea that may lead to improvements in its treatment and management, as well as its potential cure or prevention.
During April and throughout the year, 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 the disorder.
Wilkin J, Dahl M, Detmar M, Drake L, et al. Standard classification of rosacea: Report of the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee on the Classification and Staging of Rosacea. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2002;46:584-587.