I’m not a doctor. I’m a patient
Before I get into describing rosacea, what it is, what it isn’t and so on, I just want to say that I’m not a doctor. I’m not a skin care expert. I’m a rosacea blogger. I’m a patient. So the info I’ve put together on this page is meant to share what I have learned about the condition in the way as I understand it. It’s based on info shared with me through amazing sources such as my doctors, the National Rosacea Society, the Mayo Clinic, and the TalkHealth Partnership’s Rosacea Hub. This is meant for informational purposes only. Please don’t take my word for it if you want a diagnosis or treatment recommendation. Visit your doctor 🙂
What is Rosacea?
According to the Medical Dictionary Online, this is the definition of Rosacea:
A cutaneous disorder primarily of convexities of the central part of the Face, such as Forehead; CHEEK; Nose; and Chin. It is characterized by Flushing; Erythema; Edema; Rhinophyma; papules; and ocular symptoms. It may occur at any age but typically after age 30. There are various subtypes of rosacea: Erythematotelangiectatic, papulopustular, phymatous, and ocular (National Rosacea Society’s Expert Committee on the Classification and Staging of Rosacea, J Am Acad Dermatol 2002; 46:584-7).
In more simple terms, rosacea is a skin condition that presents in a number of different ways. The one thing that everyone with rosacea has in common is skin redness in the affected area.
Also called “acne rosacea”, this skin disorder is typically focused on the central part of the face, such as the cheeks and nose, but it can also affect the outer areas, such as at the temples and closer to the ears.
Some of the symptoms of rosacea can include redness, flushing, blushing easily, bumps, skin thickening, and even eye irritation. The symptoms that you experience depend on the subtype that you have.
There are four rosacea subtypes. Virtually everybody who has the condition starts with subtype 1, though there are some who experience other subtypes without the first one. If left untreated, the condition will frequently – though not always – worsen.
Rosacea Symptoms and Subtypes
Each of the subtypes of the condition has its own set of potential rosacea symptoms. Since each case of this skin disorder is unique, your case will have its own unique combination and severity of some or any of these symptoms.
Regardless of subtype, though, some of the most common symptoms of rosacea are:
- persistent redness
- very dry skin
- very sensitive/reactive skin
- blushing easily
- sun burning quickly
- hot/burning skin
- itchy skin
- the development of “plaques”, which are patches of very dry skin that vary in size.
Rosacea Subtype 1 – Facial Redness (known as erythema)
This is usually focused primarily on the nose and/or the cheeks. Redness appears as a blush or reddening of the skin. This is known as erythema. As this subtype progresses, blood vessels can become visible.
Rosacea Subtype 2 – Bumps and Pimples (known as papulopustular rosacea)
These bumps can look quite similar to pink pimples or whiteheads (though not blackheads). They are not the same as the pimples caused by acne vulgaris but are the reason that the condition is sometimes known as “acne rosacea”. That name is, unfortunately, quite misleading and will frequently cause sufferers to choose the wrong treatment strategies.
Rosacea Subtype 3 – Skin Thickening (known as rhinophema)
Thickening of the skin among rosacea sufferers most commonly occurs on the nose. It causes the nose to increase in size and will give it a more bulbous appearance. This is known as rhinophema.
Rosacea Subtype 4 – Eye Irritation (known as ocular rosacea)
Over time, untreated rosacea symptoms can even progress to the eyelids and eyes, making them feel sandy or itchy in a way that is often compared to seasonal or dust allergies. Eyes will often look bloodshot and/or watery as the redness makes its way into them, as well. This is known as ocular rosacea.
Although the term “acne rosacea” is used as though it is a form of this condition, it is actually a kind of misnomer for subtype 2.
The pimple-like bumps, redness and inflammation from rosacea subtypes 1 and 2 can often be mistaken for acne vulgaris, to the point that many doctors will misdiagnose one condition for the other. However, acne rosacea is not a form of acne. The pimples in subtype 2 are not the result of acne vulgaris.
Many dermatologists are trying to reduce the use of the term “acne rosacea” in the hopes of promoting a greater separation between the two unrelated conditions.
There are a virtually countless number of potential rosacea triggers and every patient has a different combination that will lead to his or her own symptom flare-ups. That said, according to the National Rosacea Society, some of the most common triggers include the following:
- alcohol (especially red wine)
- spicy foods and beverages
- hot (temperature) foods and beverages
- Environmental temperature extremes
- Stress and anxiety
- Anger or embarrassment
- Hot baths, showers and saunas
- Strenuous exercise and physical exertion
- Drugs causing blood vessel dilation (including certain blood pressure medications)
- Corticosteroids (including prednisone)
To discover which factors may be triggering your rosacea symptoms, it is often recommended that you keep a rosacea diary that allows you to monitor the various influences you are experiencing and track when a flare-up occurs. Identifying patterns and trends is your best route to knowing your rosacea triggers.
*If you think you may have rosacea, it’s very important to seek the help of a professional in order to obtain a diagnosis. This condition isn’t necessarily easy to diagnose. Other conditions, such as lupus, certain forms of dermatitis, eczema, and even acne can present with similar symptoms. I strongly recommend making a doctor’s appointment your first step. Where you go from there is completely up to you 🙂
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