Although surveys have found rosacea can inflict significant damage to quality of life and emotional well-being as it becomes increasingly severe, medical help is available to control or prevent its potentially devastating effects on facial appearance. The National Rosacea Society (NRS) has designated April as Rosacea Awareness Month to alert the public to the warning signs of this chronic and conspicuous disorder of the facial skin, now estimated to affect more than 14 million Americans.
"Although many may assume it's just a sunburn or a temporary case of acne, through greater public awareness more people will seek early diagnosis and appropriate therapy before their rosacea becomes a serious intrusion on their emotional, social and professional lives," said Dr. John Wolf, chairman of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine.
While rosacea varies from one patient to another, its primary signs may include flushing or transient erythema (redness), persistent erythema, papules (bumps) and pustules (pimples), and telangiectasia (visible blood vessels), according to the NRS standard classification of rosacea, developed by a consensus committee and review panel of 17 experts worldwide. Secondary features may include burning or stinging, plaques (raised patches on the skin), a dry appearance, edema (swelling), ocular manifestations and phymatous changes, in which the skin thickens.
The standard subtypes of rosacea reflect the most common patterns of signs and symptoms, and patients may have characteristics of more than one subtype at the same time. Subtype 1 (erythematotelangiectatic) rosacea is characterized by flushing and persistent redness on the central portion of the face, while subtype 2 (papulopustular) rosacea also features transient papules. Subtype 3 (phymatous) rosacea includes thickening of the skin, irregular nodularities and enlargement, especially of the nose.
Subtype 4 is ocular rosacea, where the eyes may have a watery or bloodshot appearance, the sensation of a foreign body, burning or stinging, dryness, itching, light sensitivity or a host of other signs and symptoms. Styes are a common sign of rosacea-related eye disease, and in severe cases vision may be reduced due to corneal complications.
In an NRS survey of 603 patients, 76 percent said rosacea's effect on their personal appearance had lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem, and nearly half said it had diminished their outlook on life. Moreover, for those who described their condition as severe, 94 percent said it had damaged their self-confidence and 77 percent said their rosacea had negatively affected their outlook. Nearly 40 percent said they had canceled business meetings or social engagements because of rosacea's effect on their appearance, and nearly 30 percent had even missed work because of their condition.
The good news is that 80 percent of the survey respondents reported that effective medical therapy had also improved their emotional well-being.
During Rosacea Awareness Month, extensive public education activities will be conducted by the NRS to increase awareness and understanding of this widespread disorder, emphasizing its warning signs and urging those who suspect they may have the condition to see a dermatologist or other physician. In addition, bulk quantities of NRS educational materials are available to health professionals for their patients.