As children, our rosy cheeks are often seen as a sign of good health. However, adults who tend to flush and blush easily could be experiencing the beginnings of a skin condition called rosacea. It is a common, chronic skin condition that can affect all types of skin, but is most frequently diagnosed in people with fair skin. Rosacea most often starts after the age of 30 as temporary redness of the cheeks, nose, and chin. With time, the redness can become persistent and visible blood vessels may appear. If left untreated, pimples and red bumps may develop. In the worst cases of rosacea, the skin can become thickened (like the large nose of W.C. Fields) with enlarged pores and a course “orange peel” like quality. Complaints of skin sensitivity (burning and stinging) are very common. Rosacea can also affect the eyes causing irritation, grittiness, redness and in the most severe cases, visual loss.
Although there is no cure for rosacea, it is best to seek advice from a dermatologist since therapy is available to ease symptoms and slow down skin changes. Since the signs and symptoms may vary from one person to another, treatment is tailored to each individual case. There are several topical and oral medications that are used to control the acne-like breakouts seen with rosacea. For the enlarged blood vessels, a series of laser treatments can be helpful to reduce facial redness and improve the quality of the skin. The most popular laser for redness is called the pulsed dye laser. The treatment takes 5-10 minutes to perform, feels snappy (like the snapping of a rubber band) and leaves the skin more flushed for several hours, but most patients can immediately return to their regular activities. Rarely, the skin can be bruised for several days after the treatment.
A good skin care regimen with a gentle cleanser and moisturizer is essential to soothe the irritation so often seen with rosacea. There are several good fragrance-free cleansers and non-comedogenic (means it won’t clog pores) moisturizers that are available at your local drug store. Occasionally, rosacea causes so much skin irritation that almost everything put on the skin causes burning. In these cases, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist to develop a customized skin care regimen.
In addition to the advice and treatments provided by a dermatologist, people can modify their lifestyle to slow the progression of rosacea. By avoiding those things that aggravate facial redness such as excessive sun, heat or cold exposure, spicy foods and certain types of wine and cheese, rosacea flare-ups can be minimized.