What Is Rosacea? Uncovering the Causes and Treatments

Rosacea is a common skin condition that impacts over 16 million Americans. This chronic skin condition affects the face, primarily the forehead, nose, cheeks and chin, and is more prevalent among fair-skinned women between the ages of 30 and 60.

Although rosacea is typically not itchy, many who suffer from this skin condition may still experience itchiness. The itch doesn’t stem from the condition itself but from a different underlying cause. Treatment for the itch will then depend on what the underlying cause is.

Learn more about rosacea below as we seek to answer the questions: “What is rosacea?”, “What are its symptoms?” and more.

What is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a skin condition characterized by a red or flushed appearance and visible blood vessels on the skin. In some cases, the redness is accompanied by small, pus-filled bumps similar to acne and other skin problems. Although these signs and symptoms do not typically come with itchiness or pain, they may flare up for weeks or months and then go away for a while.

Rosacea can affect anyone, but it has been observed more commonly among the following groups:

  • Adults aged 30 to 60 years old.
  • Women. However, if men do develop rosacea, the symptoms tend to be more severe than for women. 
  • People with fair skin. However, this may be due to it being underdiagnosed among people with darker skin tones.
  • People with a family history of rosacea.

Rosacea is non-life threatening and is not contagious. However, it is a lifelong condition that, unfortunately, doesn’t have a cure. However, flare-ups can be controlled to some degree with long-term treatment. The treatment will vary depending on the types of symptoms that manifest.

What are Its Symptoms?

The common symptoms of rosacea include:

  • Facial Reddening or Flushing: Rosacea causes persistent blushing that is centralized to the face. This is easily observable among those with fair skin but may appear less clearly for those with darker skin.
  • Visible Veins: Small blood vessels around the nose and cheeks burst and may appear more prominent from the surface.
  • Swollen Bumps: Skin covered with rosacea may also develop bumps filled with pus across the entire surface.
  • Problems with Eyes: Many people with rosacea will also experience dryness and irritation across the eyes and eyelids.
  • Enlarged Nose: Prolonged rosacea symptoms may thicken the skin around the nose, making it appear bulb-like.
  • Burning Sensation: The affected area by rosacea may feel hot and tender to the touch.

What are the Different Types of Rosacea?

In actuality, the symptoms of rosacea are quite diverse, giving rise to four different types. Rosacea treatment will depend on the symptoms that manifest, with more than one type able to manifest simultaneously.

The following are the four different types of rosacea:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea: This is characterized by small blood vessels getting larger and more visible, making the redness on the face last longer. These symptoms may come and go, but the redness may worsen or even become permanent if not treated. 
  • Papulopustular rosacea: Pus-filled, swollen red bumps may appear on the face, which may look similar to acne. These may appear on various areas of the face, from the forehead to the cheeks to the chin, and may be accompanied by redness. They may also show up on other sites, such as the chest, scalp or neck. Generally, these symptoms may disappear relatively quickly but will take considerably longer for more severe cases.
  • Phymatous rosacea: One of the rarer types of rosacea, symptoms like thickness and scarring may appear and will most often affect your nose. In effect, the nose may look bumpy, swollen and discolored.
  • Ocular rosacea: This type of rosacea is one of the most uncomfortable, as it also affects the eyes. It causes the eyes to become dry and sensitive, causing them to feel irritated and appear bloodshot or watery. Cysts may also develop on the eyelids.

What are the Causes of Rosacea?

While rosacea may be a common skin condition among many adults, little is known about what the causes of rosacea may be. However, there are plenty of theories that seek to explain these rosacea causes.

Some suspect the other underlying conditions might be due to a heightened sensitivity to various environmental stressors, such as exposure to certain substances, ultraviolet (UV) light and microbes that inhabit the skin. In all of these instances, both the environment and the individual’s genetic makeup play a role in the development of rosacea. 

Other identified triggers for rosacea include the following:

  • Stress
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Hot drinks
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Food items, such as spicy foods
  • Emotional distress
  • Wind
  • Drugs that dilate blood vessels, such as blood pressure medication
  • Cosmetic, hair or skincare products

Why You Need Rosacea Treatment

As mentioned above, there is currently no cure for rosacea. Additionally, many who suffer from this condition put off going to their doctor, believing it will improve. 

Unfortunately, this is a misconception, as only rosacea flare-ups may go away after some time – not the condition itself. However, even if the outbreaks go away, the symptoms may return when triggered by different environmental, biological or lifestyle factors, as listed above. These flare-ups can often last between a few weeks to several months.

The best way to manage flare-ups and enjoy relief from symptoms is through rosacea treatment, which involves setting up short-term and long-term management plans to prevent, or at least minimize, any instances of flare-ups.

How is Rosacea Treated?

Rosacea treatment can vary, depending on the symptoms that show up and their severity. In some cases, treatment can be stopped during some periods when symptoms improve. However, this will only be temporary and will resume once flare-ups return.

Treatment for rosacea can involve a combination of medication and self-help measures, such as:

  • Oral antibiotics, like clindamycin and erythromycin.
  • Oral medications for treating acne, like isotretinoin.
  • Topical medications, like metronidazole, azelaic acid or ivermectin.
  • Eye drops to lubricate the eyes in case of ocular rosacea.
  • Laser treatment, like VBeam, usually involving vascular laser or intense pulsed light (IPL), to treat facial redness and visible blood vessels.
  • Regular skincare routine, like washing and moisturizing the skin daily to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.
  • Avoiding known triggers, such as staying away from alcohol and direct sunlight.

Most of these treatment options may take two or more months before any significant differences can be observed. However, as time goes on, symptoms may show considerable improvement. At this point, the dosage and frequency of treatments may be lowered until they are no longer necessary for some time. This timeline may vary as each case is different.

Surgical treatment can also be an option for more severe cases, such as those involving rhinophyma. This may include using a fine electric needle or lasers to remove enlarged blood vessels on your face.

Can Rosacea Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, since the leading cause of rosacea isn’t known, there is no way to prevent you from acquiring the condition. However, the risk of any flare-ups can be reduced by identifying your specific triggers and avoiding them as much as possible.

Here are some tips to help minimize rosacea flare-ups:

Avoid Direct Exposure to Sunlight

Exposure to heat and UV radiation from the sun is one of the most commonly reported rosacea triggers. For those extremely prone to flare-ups, just a few minutes of sun exposure can lead to uncontrollable flushing and redness.

If you plan to go outdoors when the sun is shining brightly, wearing sun cream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is recommended to gain protection from UV-A and UV-B light. Using sun cream formulated for children is milder for sensitive skin and can help lessen the irritation.

Manage Your Stress Levels

Although the exact mechanism has not yet been confirmed, stress is also a commonly-identified trigger for rosacea. Stress can activate the sympathetic nervous system and may also cause a dysregulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, causing symptoms of rosacea to emerge.

For stress-induced flare-ups, managing stress levels is the best way to control your symptoms. This can be done through relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, deep-breathing exercises, light physical exercise and the consumption of known food and beverages that can help regulate stress levels, such as green tea.

Staying Protected From Extreme Temperatures

Extreme temperatures aren’t good for rosacea. Hot temperatures can cause redness and flushing, while cool, dry air can also worsen the redness. Wear protective clothing, like a hat or a balaclava, if you’re walking in extreme heat or cold.

Removing Triggering Food and Drinks From Your Diet

Alcoholic beverages and spicy foods are some of the worst triggers for rosacea, but they’re not the only ones. It is always a good idea to consult your doctor to know what other foods you consume trigger your symptoms. Then, remove them entirely from your diet to see improvements.

Get the Best Information From Medical Professionals

At Advanced Aesthetics, we offer effective treatments to manage rosacea symptoms. Our team of trained professionals can help create a customized treatment plan tailored to your unique needs. Book an appointment with us today to learn about our treatments and how we can help you manage your rosacea symptoms.