Rosacea’s appearance can cover the spectrum from a perpetual rosy glow to an angry red mask, but the emotional pain it inflicts varies little from patient to patient, according to recent surveys by the National Rosacea Society (NRS). April was designated Rosacea Awareness Month by the NRS to alert the public to the early warning signs of this conspicuous, red-faced disorder now estimated to affect more than 16 million Americans.
“Even mild symptoms of rosacea can be embarrassing, and even more so if the sufferers are unaware that it’s a medical condition and assume the redness, bumps or pimples are ‘their fault,’” said Dr. Richard Odom, professor of dermatology at the University of California-San Francisco. “It can easily turn into a tailspin where the emotional stress of being seen in public triggers a worsening of symptoms, causing yet further anxiety, and so on.”
Fortunately, for individuals who recognize rosacea’s warning signs and seek medical help, diagnosis and appropriate care can bring their signs and symptoms under control and minimize the condition’s social and emotional impact.
According to new surveys conducted by the NRS, most rosacea patients have felt the negative emotional effects of their condition regardless of severity or subtype. In a survey of 1,675 rosacea patients, 90 percent said that rosacea’s effect on their personal appearance had lowered their self-esteem and self-confidence, and 88 percent said they had suffered embarrassment. They also reported a wide range of other negative feelings, including frustration, cited by 76 percent; anxiety and helplessness, each noted by 54 percent; depression, 43 percent; anger, 34 percent; and isolation, 32 percent. Fifty-two percent of the respondents said they had avoided face-to-face contact because of the disorder.
Among respondents who suffer from the facial redness of subtype 1 (erythematotelangiectatic) rosacea alone, 82 percent said the condition had a negative impact on their general outlook on life and for those with moderate to severe redness, the figure rose to 90 percent.
In a previous NRS survey on the social impact of rosacea, 61 percent of those with only subtype 1 symptoms said their condition had inhibited their social lives, and the number rose to 72 percent among those who reported their redness was moderate or severe. Seventy-seven percent of patients with the bumps and pimples of subtype 2 (papulopustular) rosacea alone noted that their social life had been negatively impacted.
The good news is that more than two-thirds of respondents in both surveys said effective medical therapy had improved their emotional and social well-being, and this is now expected to further improve with the availability of medical treatment for facial redness.
“Research into the potential causes of rosacea continues to grow, and as a result, so do the treatment options,” Dr. Odom said. “Recognizing that rosacea is a manageable medical condition is the first step for those individuals who feel the sting of a stranger’s stare.”
The NRS is now funding a wide range of medical research on rosacea that may lead to improvements in its treatment, prevention or potential care.