An estimated 14 million Americans suffer from rosacea, but most of them don't know it. April has been designated Rosacea Awareness Month by the National Rosacea Society to alert the public to its warning signs and to spotlight the new standard subtypes -- the "four faces of rosacea" -- to encourage early diagnosis and treatment.
"Rosacea's signs and symptoms are often mistaken for something else, such as sunburn or acne, so many rosacea sufferers fail to realize they have a medical condition that can be treated, or they assume it's a temporary complexion problem that will eventually go away by itself," said Dr. Richard Odom, professor of dermatology at the University of California - San Francisco. "Unfortunately, without medical help rosacea tends to become progressively worse -- and can have a substantial impact both physically and on people's emotional, social and professional lives."
While millions are now affected by rosacea, its impact is on the rise as the 76 million baby boomers -- one in four Americans -- enter the most dangerous years for developing this chronic and often progressive disorder. Despite its prevalence, a Gallup survey found that 78 percent of the public has no knowledge of this condition, including how to recognize it and what to do about it.
Because rosacea varies from one individual to another, medical experts recently identified four subtypes to aid in its diagnosis as well as to improve future research on this widespread but little-known condition. These "four faces of rosacea" represent common patterns of signs and symptoms, and are part of the new standard classification system for rosacea, developed by a consensus committee and review panel of 17 rosacea experts and recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.1
"Most of us see faces of rosacea among the crowds of people we encounter every day, and the new subtypes should go a long way toward helping the public and their health care providers to recognize this conspicuous but treatable condition," Dr. Odom said. Individuals with any of the following signs and symptoms are urged to see a physician:
Subtype 1: Facial Redness (erythematotelangiectatic rosacea). This face is characterized by flushing and persistent redness, and visible blood vessels may appear. Swelling, burning or stinging may also develop.
Subtype 2: Bumps and Pimples (papulopustular rosacea). This face often has persistent redness with bumps or pimples. While this subtype may resemble acne, blackheads are absent and burning or stinging may occur.
Subtype 3: Skin Thickening (phymatous rosacea). This face features thickened skin and enlargement from excess tissue, most commonly on the nose. This is the condition, known as rhinophyma, that gave W. C. Fields his trademark bulbous nose.
Subtype 4: Eye Irritation (ocular rosacea). Rosacea often affects the eyes, causing irritation and a watery or bloodshot appearance. Severe cases can result in corneal damage and vision loss.
Because the underlying causes and other key aspects of rosacea are unknown, the National Rosacea Society has established a research grants program to encourage and support greater scientific knowledge of the potential causes and other key aspects of this poorly understood disorder. The Society is now funding a growing number of new studies on rosacea that may lead to improvements in its treatment, management and potential cure or prevention.
During April and throughout the year, individuals who suspect they have rosacea can call the Society's toll-free number at 1-888-NO-BLUSH to receive information on the disorder.
Wilkin J, Dahl M, Detmar M, Drake L, et al. Standard classification of rosacea: Report of the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee on the Classification and Staging of Rosacea. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2002;46:584-587.