When Jennie McCollum began suffering breakouts of bumps and pimples about 15 years ago, she felt as if she were turning 16 all over again and reliving the angst of teenage acne. Fortunately, her dermatologist was able to correctly diagnose her skin condition as rosacea, and he started the now 68-year-old retired nurse from Alabama on rosacea therapy.
For years, Jane Parks-McKay noticed her face was getting redder and her pores were becoming larger. The 60-year-old writer from Santa Cruz, Calif., saw a number of different doctors, but none ever mentioned the possibility of rosacea.
It was only when she began seeing a dermatologist about five years ago that Jane learned of the condition and realized she probably had been unknowingly battling rosacea for a long time. The doctor prescribed topical therapy for her.
A giant screen can magnify even the tiniest facial blemish, so a conspicuous skin condition such as rosacea could become a significant career roadblock for an actress if it goes undiagnosed and untreated. Fortunately for TV, stage and movie actress Cynthia Nixon, co-star of "Sex in the City," a dermatologist was able to put a name to her vexing facial inflammation before her rosacea got out of hand.
Christine Patterson does not go so far as to call her dermatologist a miracle worker, but she is effusive with her praise for the doctor who helped her overcome her severe flare-ups of papules and pustules.
"It was amazing how in two years' time I went from a horrible breakout to almost clear skin," said Christine, a 62-year-old medical coder from Arkansas. "Even with the stress I've had this year — I thought I was having a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital — my rosacea didn't flare up."
While medical therapy and lifestyle changes to avoid triggers are the cornerstones of any rosacea treatment plan, many rosacea patients have adopted various measures they believe may help their individual cases. Although what may work for one patient may not work for another, the following are some tips sent to the National Rosacea Society from our readers to share with others.
- "During the pollen seasons, I sometimes use antihistamine eyedrops to control itchiness."
Schoolteachers are legendary for their "eagle eyes" — their uncanny ability to see a note being passed in the last row or a piece of chewing gum being placed surreptitiously in a student's mouth. So it was for Barbara Brown, a retired teacher from Virginia, until about four years ago when she began to experience severe eye irritation.
"It started with what I thought was an eye infection," Barbara said. "I got some ointment from my doctor, but it didn't get any better. He finally sent me to a specialist who diagnosed my problem as ocular rosacea."
Clarence Halpny's wife Marilyn suspects that he had rosacea most of his adult life because his nose was almost continually red and swollen with excess tissue, a hallmark of subtype 3 (phymatous) rosacea, when the two first met while he was in his early 60s. Although they were soon married, it wasn't until Clarence began experiencing frequent outbreaks of pimples that she convinced him to seek diagnosis and treatment.
Teresa Davisson, like many rosacea patients, never even considered the possibility that she might have rosacea when she experienced her first flare-up as she approached her fortieth birthday.
"I thought it was just an allergic reaction to the lotion I was using, so I switched to another lotion, and my skin cleared up," said the 51-year-old medical biller from Indiana. "Unfortunately, six months later the pimples were back, and I had a blush that wouldn't fade."
Rosacea has a formidable opponent in Beverly Kuykendall. The 53-year-old computer assistant from Texas was diagnosed with the disorder more than 20 years ago, but she has never let her guard down in the battle against rosacea's signs and symptoms. She arms herself with as much knowledge about the condition as possible, so much that friends refer to her as a "cornucopia of information."
Theresa Pignotti jokes that she was born in a dermatologist's office and saw her dermatologist more often than her own father while growing up. Although she had impetigo as a newborn and acne as an adolescent, she was still taken aback by her first rosacea flare-up. In fact, the 54-year-old respiratory therapist from Rhode Island vividly recalls that very day in 2000.
"I thought I would treat myself to a facial for my birthday," Theresa said, "but it just made my face go crazy. I looked like I was sunburned, and I had pimples and pustules all over."