Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that mainly affects the face. Typically, rosacea is characterized by facial redness and flushing. There may also be burning or stinging, persistent spots, and prominent blood vessels across affected areas. Over time, the skin may thicken and enlarge and eventually cause deformity, particularly of the nose.
Rosacea affects around 10% of all individuals and is most common among fair skinned Caucasians aged 30 to 60 years. Although either gender may develop rosacea, the condition is more common among women than men.
Causes and triggers of rosacea
The exact cause of rosacea is not yet known but there are several triggers that may worsen symptoms and cause a "flare-up" of the condition. These triggers include:
Exposure to sunlight
Exposure to hot or cold weather
Alcoholic or caffeine-containing beverages
Diagnosis and treatment of rosacea
The diagnosis of rosacea is usually based on evaluation of a patient's history of symptoms and an examination of the skin. A physician may also want to rule out other conditions that could cause similar symptoms to rosacea such as acne, eczema or psoriasis. In some rare cases the skin is biopsied to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no known cure for rosacea but there are several medications that are used to control symptoms of the condition. In most cases, these symptoms tend to increase and decrease in their severity, with episodes of "flare-ups" interspersed by periods of relatively fewer and less bothersome symptoms. The main focus of rosacea management is the avoidance of triggers that may induce a flare-up of symptoms.
Medications used to manage the condition include antibiotics that may be topically applied or orally ingested. In severe cases, a retinoid called isotretinoin may be prescribed for the treatment of acne. However, this medication cannot be used by pregnant women or those who are likely to conceive during therapy as it may cause severe birth defects. Another medication that may be recommended is azelaic acid, a gel that can be applied to reduce the swelling, bumps and lesions rosacea causes.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc