Having children follow in their footsteps can be the ultimate satisfaction for many parents, but not in the case of rosacea. Evidence suggests that heredity may indeed play a role in the development of this disorder, and that the children and other relatives of rosacea sufferers would be wise to be on the lookout for early signs as they grow older in order to seek diagnosis and treatment before the condition reaches more advanced stages.
In a survey by the National Rosacea Society of more than 2,000 rosacea sufferers, nearly 40 percent of the respondents indicated they had a family member who also suffered from rosacea. That family member was a parent for 27 percent, a sibling for 18 percent, a grandparent for 13 percent and an aunt or uncle for 16 percent.
Rosacea usually first appears as a redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead that comes and goes. As the disease progresses, the redness becomes ruddier and more permanent, and tiny dilated blood vessels may become visible. Left untreated, acne-like bumps and pimples often develop and, in advanced cases, the nose may become swollen from excess tissue. In some individuals, rosacea also causes the eyes to become gritty and irritated.
Although rosacea usually first appears between the ages of 30 and 60, another patient survey found that 13 percent of rosacea sufferers developed this chronic condition earlier in life. In rare instances, rosacea has been documented in adolescents and even during childhood, according to Dr. Amy Paller, professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Northwestern University Medical School.
"Although it is infrequent, I see an average of two cases a year of true rosacea in children," Dr. Paller said. "It is commonly mistaken for other childhood facial rashes, and treatments for these can actually exacerbate the rosacea. Spotting rosacea in children is based on a clinical pattern, and parents should take their child to see a dermatologist for any unusual skin problems."
Dermatologists have also described a condition known as "prerosacea." Often found in someone with a family history of rosacea, individuals with prerosacea experience frequent blushes or flushes that last longer than normal and their skin may be exceptionally sensitive.1 For example, the skin of a person with prerosacea may become irritated in response to inappropriate treatment with acne medications, and it therefore becomes very important to have a correct diagnosis.
Once identified, rosacea-prone individuals can be counseled to avoid aggravating lifestyle and environmental factors known to cause repeated flushing reactions that may lead to full-blown rosacea. Common triggers include sun exposure, emotional stress, cold or hot weather, wind, spicy food, alcohol, hot drinks and facial products that sting or burn.
Wilkin J: Rosacea: Pathophysiology and treatment. Archives of Dermatology. 1994;130:359-362.