While in today's world women are increasingly recognized as equals to men, when it comes to rosacea many differences between the sexes appear to exist.
Of fundamental significance, clinical studies have suggested that rosacea may occur three times more often in women than in their male counterparts. This higher susceptibility to rosacea may be due to a number of factors, according to Dr. Jerome Z. Litt, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in a recent article in the medical journal The Female Patient.1
Not only does rosacea seem to strike women disproportionately to men, but it tends to affect men and women in somewhat different ways. According to a National Rosacea Society survey of 2,157 patients on the pattern of rosacea symptoms, women are more likely to experience symptoms on the cheeks (87 percent of women vs. 68 percent of men) and chin (49 percent vs. 20 percent). On the other hand, men are more often affected by severe symptoms on the nose (21 percent of men vs. 8 percent of women).
"Although rosacea seems to be more common in women, dermatologists have observed that rosacea tends to be more severe in men," Dr. Litt said. "This may be due in part to a tendency for men to delay seeking medical help until the condition has reached more advanced stages."
For most sufferers, the onset of rosacea occurs between the ages of 30 and 60 as a facial redness that may come and go. Over time, the redness becomes more persistent, and visible blood vessels may appear. Without treatment, bumps and pimples often develop, and in advanced cases -- especially in men -- the nose may become enlarged from excess tissue.
In a woman who is at risk for rosacea -- someone who has a tendency to flush a lot, a family history of the condition or a strong stinging reaction to topical skin products -- hot flashes during menopause may actually bring on rosacea's first appearance.
"In many women, rosacea is first diagnosed during menopause," Dr. Litt said. "This may be caused by the flushing that is often associated with hormonal change."
Women with rosacea also appear to be more likely to experience migraine headaches than those without rosacea, according to findings reported in the medical journal Dermatology.2 Researchers speculated that changes in vascular reactivity caused by age-related modifications in sexual hormones might be the reason for this phenomenon.
"Female rosacea sufferers face a distinct set of issues relating to the disease," Dr. Litt said. "Unlike most disorders, rosacea is one that tends to affect men and women differently."
Nonetheless, clinical studies have found that both men and women benefit equally from medical therapy to help eradicate a broad range of symptoms. Avoiding environmental and lifestyle factors that may aggravate individual conditions also may help to keep rosacea symptoms under control.
Litt JZ: Recognizing rosacea. The Female Patient. 2000;25:50-54.
Berg M, Liden S: Postmenopausal female rosacea patients are more disposed to react with migraine. Dermatology. 1996;193:73-74.