The many potential signs and symptoms of rosacea may so closely mimic other skin disorders that it has often been called "The Great Impostor." The National Rosacea Society (NRS) has designated April as Rosacea Awareness Month to alert the public to the warning signs of this chronic and conspicuous condition and to emphasize the importance of seeking medical help.
"The flushing or redness of rosacea may unknowingly resemble a sunburn, and the bumps and pimples may be mistaken for a typical case of acne," said Dr. Richard Odom, professor of dermatology at the University of California-San Francisco. "Adding to the confusion, few people associate the eye symptoms of ocular rosacea with a skin disorder."
He noted that this lack of understanding causes many people to delay seeing a dermatologist because they assume they have a temporary condition that will go away by itself. Without medical help, however, the effects of rosacea usually persist and may grow increasingly severe.
The NRS awareness campaign is designed not only to raise public recognition of the many "faces of rosacea," but also to emphasize the importance of early diagnosis and appropriate treatment — before the disorder becomes an intrusive factor in people's emotional, social and professional lives. In surveys conducted by the NRS, more than 76 percent of rosacea patients said uncontrolled rosacea had lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem, and 41 percent reported that it had caused them to avoid public contact or cancel social engagements.
Unfortunately, even though 16 million Americans are now estimated to suffer from rosacea, only a small fraction are being treated. In an effort to reach the growing number of rosacea sufferers, the NRS conducts public service announcements and other educational activities during Rosacea Awareness Month.
"People need to know this is a chronic disorder that can be effectively controlled with medical therapy and lifestyle modifications," Dr. Odom said. "This can substantially improve the quality of their lives."
In addition to mimicking the signs of other disorders, rosacea's signs and symptoms may also vary from one patient to another. According to the NRS standard classification of rosacea, developed by a consensus committee and review panel of 17 experts worldwide, any of the following primary signs may indicate rosacea: flushing or transient redness, persistent redness, bumps and pimples, and visible blood vessels.1 Secondary features may include burning or stinging, irritation of the eyes, raised patches on the skin, a dry appearance, swelling, and phymatous changes, in which the skin thickens.
During April and throughout the year, information is available by calling the NRS toll-free at 1-888-NO BLUSH or by visiting www.rosacea.org.
- 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. J Am Acad Dermatol 2002;46:584-587.