In Ask a Dermatologist

Rosacea is a commonly occurring skin condition that affects over 16 million Americans. If you are living with rosacea, you are not alone. In fact, both Bill Clinton and Princess Diana both have suffered from the condition. Though rosacea is widespread, a National Rosacea Society survey found that 95% of rosacea patients had little to no knowledge about its signs and symptoms prior to their diagnosis.

Columbia Skin Clinic sees and treats many patients with rosacea, and our board-certified dermatologists are here to help those who suffer from the condition.

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness in the face and can appear differently depending on the person. Symptoms of rosacea include:

  • Facial redness in the central part of the face
  • Visible blood vessels on the nose and cheeks
  • Red, sometimes pus-filled bumps that appear swollen
  • Facial tenderness and heat
  • Eye issues including dryness, irritation, swelling and red eyelids
  • Rhinophyma, or enlarged nose, due to skin thickening

Rosacea can occur in anyone but is most commonly found in middle-aged women who have fair skin. It is often mistaken for an allergic reaction or acne. Rosacea can have bad flare-ups, then subside in some patients.

What are the different types of rosacea?

Because rosacea can have a variety of signs and symptoms, doctors have created four subtypes of rosacea. Each subtype presents in specific ways and requires different treatments. Some patients may have more than one subtype occurring at the same time. More about these subtypes:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea or ETR is a form of rosacea that causes redness, visible blood vessels and flushing, most often in the center of the face. Patients who suffer from ETR commonly experience rough, dry, swollen skin or scaling. Their skin may be extremely sensitive and have a tendency to sting or burn. ETR patients may also blush more easily than others.
  • Papulopustular rosacea is common in middle-aged women. This subtype causes acne-like breakouts where the skin is very red. These breakouts will come and go, causing oily and sensitive skin when visible. Those who suffer from papulopustular rosacea also experience plaques or raised patches of skin.
  • Phymatous rosacea, although rare, can cause skin thickening or bumpy skin referred to as rhinophyma. This type appears in men more than women and is distinguished by large pores, oily skin and visible, broken blood vessels. Those who suffer from phymatous rosacea will often have symptoms of other types of rosacea first.
  • Ocular rosacea is the final subtype and is rosacea of the eye. It causes watery, bloodshot eyes that feel gritty, like there is sand in the eye. Eyes become very sensitive and will burn, sting, feel very dry and itch. This type of rosacea can also cause what looks like a sty on the eye. These symptoms will affect a patient’s ability to see as well as they did before.

What can irritate or trigger rosacea?

Though rosacea has no known cause, scientists have found that it could be a combination of environmental factors and heredity. Multiple factors can trigger or aggravate rosacea by increasing the amount of blood flow to the surface of the skin. These factors may include:

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Wind and sunlight
  • Extreme emotions
  • Some cosmetics
  • Exercise
  • Spicy foods and hot drinks

Studies also show that some medications that dilate blood vessels, such as blood pressure drugs, have been found to trigger rosacea.

What is the most effective treatment for rosacea?

There is no cure for rosacea, but there are many effective treatments to help control symptoms. The type and duration of treatment depend on the severity of your case.

The most effective treatment for rosacea is to avoid triggers. Come to know what causes your flare-ups and work to avoid those triggers. Protecting your face and applying at least SPF 30 sunscreen daily will help keep rosacea at bay. Always treat your skin gently and adopt a rosacea-friendly lifestyle.

There are also many medications and therapies that can reduce the redness caused by rosacea. Recent studies have shown that a drug called brimonidine works to control redness by constricting blood vessels. Other topical medications to help the appearance of mild rosacea include azelaic acid and metronidazole. See your dermatologist for more information about rosacea medications that are a good fit for your skin.

Laser therapy has been successful in reducing redness and enlarged blood vessels on patients with rosacea. Columbia Skin Clinic offers intense pulsed light therapy and dermabrasion, which can be useful for treating rhinophyma.

When should I seek treatment?

Seeking treatment for rosacea is always a good choice once you begin to notice symptoms. Rosacea can be upsetting and lowers self-esteem for many people.

At Columbia Skin Clinic, we not only offer clinical dermatology but cosmetic treatments as well. Our highly trained staff can help you cope with rosacea and develop a treatment plan that works best for your skin type and lifestyle. Book a dermatology appointment today at one of our three convenient locations in Columbia, Irmo and Camden.

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