You wake up one morning, take a look in the mirror, and you notice a pink blemish, maybe some inflammation, that wasn’t there before. Did you sleep funny? Did a spider bite you during the night? Maybe you disregard it for a while, only to notice that over the next few days and weeks, the condition gets worse, extending across your whole face. What is happening to your skin?
You are likely experiencing rosacea.
What is rosacea? What does it look like? How do you know you have it? What can you do to get rid of it?
These are all common questions. We like to call the patient who struggles with rosacea the “flusher blusher” since the condition accentuates a normal blush. Rosacea often affects fair-skinned people, typically Northern Europeans, and is most noticeable after a workout, a spicy meal, an alcoholic drink, too much caffeine, or anything that causes blushing.
Although it’s more common with women, perhaps due to makeup or skin products, when men experience rosacea, their case is often more severe.
What Does Rosacea Look Like?
Patients experience rosacea in many different ways. Rosacea can cause the skin to be a soft pink or a deep red. Some patients get rosacea in their eyes – it looks like pink eyeliner and the eyes feel irritated and gritty.
Occasionally, patients develop white pustules similar to acne (especially common for those with particularly oily skin), a rhinophyma nose (an extreme case of rosacea that creates a large mass at the bottom of the nose) in extreme cases, or deep cysts.
One form of rosacea occurs when a patient has exceptionally large oil glands, called sebaceous hyperplasia, that secrete too much oil. Other patients don’t get pink, but they still see inflammation.
A dermatologist is a detective of sorts. We look at your skin to pick up small details and evidences that tell us what type of rosacea you have. Once we can pinpoint the type, we know better how to treat.
Rosacea isn’t a disease; it’s a condition. Although there is no known cause or cure, we can target and control the symptoms, as well as eliminate anything that aggravates the condition.
What Can Affect Rosacea?
Since rosacea is inflammation of the skin, the endpoint is dryness. We first treat the inflammation to try to eliminate the condition, and we start by targeting topical proinflammatory factors. Some of these factors that contribute to rosacea are:
- Chemical-based sunscreens
- Cheap makeup
- Some medications
- Skin products
- Over-the-counter anti-aging products
- Skin mites
Some patients are surprised to learn that we have mites living in the oil glands of our skin. These mites carry a bacteria that changes the oil on our skin, making it pro-inflammatory. If we remove some of the oil, we kill the mites in the process, which helps the skin fight the inflammation.
How Do We Treat Rosacea?
Once we eliminate topical aggravators of rosacea, patients see some improvement. We might prescribe medication for a limited time, but since rosacea doesn’t have a permanent cure, prescriptions won’t cure it permanently. We recommend a nice, gentle moisturizer and cleanser, which often has great results.
Occasionally rosacea will flare up due to stress or hot weather, so we’ll offer some medication, but only until the extreme symptoms calm down.
What Does this Mean for You?
If you’re worried about rosacea, take a moment to think about what you use on your skin that could be aggravating the condition. It might be time to switch to better makeup and skin products and get rid of chemical-based sunscreens.
Rosacea is not difficult to treat, so don’t hesitate to address it head-on. You have many different, individualized treatment options that are available for you. Not everybody needs anti-mite medication, but to some that’s all they need. It just depends on your specific type of rosacea.
We don’t use lasers to treat rosacea, but we can use them to treat damaged blood vessels that are caused by inflammation. You might not notice these ruptured blood vessels if you have a bright red, acne-prone type of rosacea. But once your condition starts to heal, you might see little capillaries, called telangiectasia, that look like red squiggly lines. We use the laser to get rid of those red lines.
Rosacea can happen to everybody, so we treat everyone – teenagers, adults, men, women. Some adults acquire it over time, most commonly at ages 30-50. Many women experiencing menopause will have rosacea flares due to hot flashes. We can help you understand what to look for and the best way to treat your specific type of rosacea.