Rosacea's symptoms have been described in literature and depicted in art for more than 700 years, yet this common but little-known condition remains a mystery to most Americans. April was designated Rosacea Awareness Month by the National Rosacea Society to increase public understanding of rosacea and encourage people who may suffer from the disorder to seek professional diagnosis and appropriate therapy.
"Because the early symptoms often masquerade as a sunburn, many rosacea sufferers fail to realize they have a condition that can be treated, or they assume it's just like teenage acne and will eventually go away by itself," said Dr. Larry Millikan, chairman of Dermatology, Tulane University School of Medicine. Unfortunately, without medical help rosacea tends to become increasingly more severe.
A recent Gallup survey found that 78 percent of Americans have no knowledge of rosacea, even though it is estimated to affect more than 13 million adults in the United States. Moreover, this widespread condition is becoming increasingly common as the populous baby boom generation enters the most susceptible ages.
Rosacea usually first appears after age 30 as a redness on the forehead, nose, cheeks or chin that may come and go. Left untreated, the redness becomes ruddier and more permanent. Tiny dilated blood vessels may become visible, and acne-like bumps and pimples often appear.
In advanced cases, especially in men, the nose may become bumpy, red and enlarged from excess tissue. In some individuals, rosacea also causes the eyes to become gritty and red as it increases in severity, and in rare cases may lead to vision loss.1
Although rosacea strikes both men and women, it is more often diagnosed in women, while more severe problems tend to be seen in men -- perhaps in part because men may tend to delay seeking medical help until the condition reaches more advanced stages.2
"It is essential for any adult with excessive facial redness or acne-like symptoms to see a physician for differential diagnosis and appropriate treatment to prevent rosacea's progression to more serious stages," Dr. Millikan said.
In most cases, dermatologists initially prescribe fast-acting oral or topical antibiotics to bring the symptoms under immediate control, and then continue long-term therapy with the topical antibiotic alone to maintain remission of symptoms, according to Dr. Millikan. Patients are also advised to avoid environmental and lifestyle factors that may aggravate their individual conditions, and visible blood vessels can be removed painlessly with laser therapy.
As a part of Rosacea Awareness Month, the National Rosacea Society issued public service announcements and press materials with educational information on the condition. The society has also established a toll-free hotline where rosacea sufferers or those who suspect they may have the condition can call 1-888-NO-BLUSH or fill out the Materials Request Form to receive materials and Rosacea Review.
In addition, the National Rosacea Society provides a Patient Diary Checklist to help rosacea sufferers identify and avoid environmental and lifestyle factors that cause rosacea flare-ups in their individual cases, and it recently published a booklet, called "Coping with Rosacea," that offers tips on avoiding common rosacea tripwires.
Quarterman MJ, Johnson DW, Abele DC, et al: Ocular rosacea: Signs, symptoms, and tear studies before and after treatment with doxycycline. Archives of Dermatology. 1997;133:49-54.
Bikowski J: Rosacea: The great imitator. Family Practice Recertification. 1997;19:61-81.