Despite its conspicuous nature, most Americans still do not know what rosacea is or what to do about it. April has been designated Rosacea Awareness Month by the National Rosacea Society to increase public awareness of rosacea and to spotlight the warning signs of this widespread but little-known condition.
Although rosacea is becoming increasingly common as the populous baby boom generation enters the most susceptible ages, a Gallup survey found that 78 percent of Americans have no knowledge of this common disorder now estimated to affect more than 13 million people in the United States alone.
Because of its effects on personal appearance, however, rosacea can cause devastating psychological and social problems if left untreated. In a National Rosacea Society survey, for example, nearly 70 percent of rosacea sufferers said this condition had lowered their self-esteem and self-confidence, with many reporting embarrassment, anxiety and even depression.
"Misconceptions and ignorance about rosacea abound, and many people with this disorder are unaware that they have a medical condition that can be successfully treated," said Dr. Diane Thiboutot, associate professor of dermatology at Pennsylvania State University. "Because it can inflict substantial damage to quality of life, early diagnosis is essential to prevent rosacea's advance to more severe stages."
Anyone with one or more of the following warning signs of rosacea is urged to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and appropriate therapy:
Redness on the cheeks, nose, forehead or chin.
Small visible blood vessels on the face.
Bumps and pimples on the face.
Watery or irritated eyes.
Left untreated, these symptoms tend to become increasingly severe, and in advanced cases, especially in men, the nose may grow swollen and bumpy from excess tissue. This is the condition that gave the late comedian W.C. Fields his trademark red bulbous nose.
While rosacea symptoms tend to be more severe in men, it is more commonly diagnosed in women. In a National Rosacea Society survey, 44 percent of rosacea sufferers said their symptoms first appeared in their 30s and 40s, and 43 percent first experienced rosacea after age 50.
"The good news is that the unsightly effects of this chronic and potentially serious condition can now be successfully controlled," Dr. Thiboutot said. "This can dramatically turn people's lives around by restoring their personal appearance."
As part of Rosacea Awareness Month, the National Rosacea Society is issuing public service announcements and press materials with information on this widespread disorder. Rosacea sufferers or those who suspect they may have the condition can fill out the Materials Request Form, e-mail the society at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call the Society's toll-free number at 1-888-NO-BLUSH to receive free educational materials.