Starting with the new decade, it is now estimated by the National Rosacea Society (NRS) that 16 million Americans suffer from the signs and symptoms of rosacea, and millions more may be in temporary remission.
"Although medical therapy and proper care have helped millions of Americans control the signs and symptoms of this disorder, the steady growth and aging of the population have raised the incidence of this chronic condition over the past decade," said Dr. Jonathan Wilkin, chairman of the NRS medical advisory board. He noted that, although rosacea may occur at any age, it tends to first appear during middle age and is thus now affecting the massive Baby Boom generation.
The NRS had previously estimated the number of rosacea sufferers in the United States at 14 million, and recent epidemiological data have also suggested the incidence may be much higher.
In a recent study, Dr. Maeve McAleer and colleagues at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and the School of Public Health and Population Science, University College, Dublin, found that 14.4 percent of 1,000 subjects examined in Ireland had rosacea.1 Moreover, in a 1989 study of 800 office workers in Sweden, the prevalence of rosacea was 10 percent -- including 14 percent in women and 6 percent in men.2
"While these incidence rates are very high, rosacea tends to be more common in fair-skinned individuals, and an assessment of rosacea in the U.S. must take into account the diversity of its population," Dr. Wilkin said.
In a study of photos of 2,933 random women volunteers in the U.S. presented at an NRS research workshop by Dr. Alexa Boer Kimball, director of the clinical unit for research trials in skin at Harvard Medical School, the rosacea prevalence rate in all of the women regardless of ethnic background was 9.6 percent. At the same time, the prevalence rate in the Caucasian women alone was 16 percent -- comparable to the rates found in Ireland and Sweden.
"In actuality, all of these studies may understate the true incidence of rosacea because they examined only the presence of signs and symptoms at the time of the study, while rosacea is a chronic underlying condition whose outward signs and symptoms are characterized by relapses and remissions," Dr. Wilkin said. "Thus, at any given time, millions of additional rosacea sufferers may simply be in temporary remission."
Furthermore, skin with more pigment tends to camouflage some signs of flushing rosacea. It may be present but not easily observed.
"The good news is that although the incidence of rosacea has increased in the United States, awareness of the disorder has been rising steadily," Dr. Wilkin said. "My hope is that anyone who suspects they may have this potentially life-disruptive condition will seek medical help to bring it under control."
- McAleer MA, Fitzpatrick P, Powell FC. The prevalence and pathogenesis of rosacea. Poster presentation, British Association of Dermatologists annual meeting, Liverpool, July 1-4, 2008.
- Berg M, Liden S. An epidemiological study of rosacea. Acta Dermato-Venereologica. 1989;69:419-423.