Whether you live in the north woods of Wisconsin or the milder weather states of the South, the winter months can be especially challenging for people with rosacea. Various factors -- from wind and cold to sun exposure, indoor heat and low humidity -- all rank high on the list of common triggers for rosacea flare-ups.
"Ocular rosacea especially tends to get worse in winter as the eyes become more irritable due to cold and windy conditions," said Dr. Guy Webster, professor of dermatology at Thomas Jefferson University Medical College. "Many people whose eyes are affected by rosacea do not realize the irritation is from a medical disorder and that it requires special treatment and care."
He noted that common signs and symptoms of ocular rosacea include increased eye irritation, a watery discharge, eyes that feel gritty or very dry, a bloodshot appearance or the presence of a stye.
"In addition to medical treatment, patients with ocular symptoms should minimize time outdoors in winter," Dr. Webster said. "They can also protect their eyes from icy blasts with UV protected glasses or sunglasses."
The facial effects of rosacea are also frequently aggravated during the winter due to cold and windy conditions in the North or sun and heat in the South. And symptoms are often further exacerbated when "snowbirds" from the North escape to the South in search of sun and warmer temperatures, or conversely when those from a warmer climate plan skiing trips to the northern mountains and fail to take precautions for weather changes.
Many patients have noted that indoor heat also frequently poses a problem during the winter as well as spring. Regulating indoor temperature during changing weather conditions, as well as maintaining indoor humidity, can be difficult but well worth the effort to avoid flare-ups.
"In winter, the facial skin becomes dryer and more easily irritated," said Dr. Steven Feldman, professor, Departments of Dermatology, Pathology and Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University. "It's important to comply with medical therapy to keep flare-ups at bay and to make sure your topical therapy formulation does not irritate your skin."
Dr. Feldman said that topical formulations can be matched to individual patient sensitivities, and noted for example that a recent clinical study found a topical gel may be less irritating for many patients than a cream formulation. He also recommended that rosacea sufferers use a moisturizer and a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher during winter months, since the sun can trigger a flare-up at any time of the year.