While rosacea has grown increasingly common as the baby boom generation enters the most susceptible ages, mounting evidence has shown that this conspicuous red-faced disorder may be more devastating and prevalent than widely believed. The National Rosacea Society (NRS) designated April as Rosacea Awareness Month to alert the public to this chronic and often embarrassing condition now estimated to affect well over 14 million Americans.
"Although the image of a blushing bride may inspire feelings of warmth and endearment, if the redness persists it can be an early sign of rosacea," said Dr. Richard Odom, professor of dermatology, University of California -- San Francisco. "Often the initial signs will come and go, but without proper care and treatment the disorder can grow progressively more persistent and severe, with potentially serious consequences both physically and on people's emotional, social and professional lives."
In NRS surveys of more than 1,200 rosacea patients, 76 percent said rosacea's effect on their personal appearance had lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem; 69 percent felt embarrassed; and 63 percent reported difficulty in establishing new relationships because of the condition. Of those who described their rosacea as severe, 94 percent said it had damaged their self-confidence, and 77 percent reported that it had diminished their outlook on life.
"Public awareness is especially important because the disorder is far more common than many people realize," Dr. Odom said. "Anyone with signs of rosacea should seek medical help and protective measures before it becomes increasingly intrusive on their daily life."
In preliminary study results presented at the NRS research workshop during the Society for Investigative Dermatology annual meeting, researchers found that nearly one in 10 American women had rosacea to some degree, and the rate was 16 percent among Caucasians only. Presented by Dr. Alexa Boer Kimball, director of the clinical unit for research in skin care at Harvard Medical School, the study was based on examination of high-resolution digital photographs of 2,933 women aged 10 to 70 who volunteered from the general population.
She noted that subtype 1 (erythematotelangiectatic) rosacea, characterized by facial redness, affected nearly 15 percent of the Caucasian women, compared to 1.5 percent who had the bumps and pimples of subtype 2 (papulopustular) rosacea.
Although it is often more severe in men, rosacea has been found to occur up to three times more frequently in women and can affect individuals of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. In a recent NRS survey of 1,391 rosacea patients, 44 percent said the disorder first appeared between the ages of 30 and 50, while 39 percent reported that the condition began after age 50 and for 17 percent it developed before age 30.
"The good news is that while rosacea cannot be cured, it can be effectively controlled with medical therapy, lifestyle changes and proper skin care," Dr. Odom said. Individuals with any of the following warning signs of rosacea are urged to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and appropriate treatment:
Redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead.
Small visible blood vessels on the face.
Bumps or pimples on the face.
Watery or irritated eyes.