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What is Rosacea?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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Rosacea is an incurable condition affecting 14 million Americans. Despite the high number of afflicted people, 78% of the United States population admits to have never heard of it.

Typically, signs of rosacea begin to appear after a person's 30th birthday. These first signs show as reddened patches of skin. Over time, the red patches can develop small bumps or thickened bumps within them. The disorder can also cause the skin to have a flushed appearance, and blood vessels are often apparent.

People with rosacea tend to be fair skinned and to blush easily. Although there is no cure for the condition, proper skin care can keep flare-ups minimal. It is not contagious and most experts believe it is caused by an underlying condition involving overactive blood vessels. Nonetheless, the medical community remains unsure of its cause. Studies have shown, however, that 33% of all diagnosed rosacea patients are of Irish heritage and 40% have an immediate family member coping with the disorder.

Common triggers of a rosacea outbreak include extreme cold weather, hot weather, physical and emotional stress, strenuous exercise, hot baths, spicy foods, exposure to the sun, and alcohol consumption. Typically, a person diagnosed with the condition can easily name the circumstances that cause it to flare up. Avoiding or limiting these situations can help keep flare-ups to a minimum.

Certain medications and topical creams can be used to help prevent rosacea flare-ups. A number of patients have found consistent use of special creams and medications throughout a ten-year period can ultimately prevent it from flaring up again. Antibiotics are also prescribed at times to help with the disorder. Though there is no proof rosacea is a bacterial condition, the anti-inflammatory qualities of the antibiotics have been shown to prevent flare-ups from occurring. Topical ointments are used on a more regular basis than antibiotics, however, because they are usually safer to use over an extended period of time.

Many dermatologists recommend the use of a hypoallergenic facial wash in the mornings to prevent rosacea flare-ups. When washing, facial skin should be gently rubbed with a soft washcloth and scrubbing should be avoided. The skin should be blotted dry afterward because it is delicate and rough treatment can worsen the condition. Exposure to the sun should also be limited for those with rosacea. When in the sun, it is important for those with the disorder to use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 in order to prevent flare-ups.

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Discussion Comments
By anon954935 — On Jun 04, 2014

It is very interesting that so many Irish people have rosacea. I am not Irish but I have been living here for the last 13 years and I think I have rosacea. About three years ago I noticed that I am blushing often and without reason. My face would be like I got burned soon after a couple of glasses of wine, not to mention when I am eating spicy food. I guess it is time to visit a doctor.

By truman12 — On Jul 17, 2011

I come from an old Irish family and I have at least 5 or 6 cousins, aunts and uncles that suffer from Rosacea. I guess it really is an Irish curse.

All the rest of us have fair skin and get terrible sun burns accompanied by lots and lots of freckles. But luckily only a few of us have Rosacea.

They have gotten used to it mostly and in the context of our family it doesn't look all that weird. Still, it is amazing to think that us Irish get this so much worse than everyone else. Hopefully one day there is a cure that will give us fair skin year round.

By summing — On Jul 16, 2011

My husband has had rosacea since he was a teenager. For many reasons he could not find any effective treatment. But lately there have been a number of facial washes that have greatly reduced the appearance of his red splotches.

His facial rosacea got a lot better once he started using an organic facial rub every morning. It contains lots of vitamins and minerals as well as some healthy extracts. before his red splotches were a deep wine color. But now, after a few months of regular use, they have evened out into a consistent pink color.

Of all the rosacea products available this has been the most effective. Any sufferers shouldt ry and find a really high quality skin care product that they can commit to using regularly. It won't cure you but it could improve your appearance significantly.

By chivebasil — On Jul 16, 2011

I have Rosacea and I absolutely detest extreme weather. If it is really hot or really cold outside I avoid leaving the house at all costs because I know that it will mean an embarrassing red mask all over my face. This is a huge inconvenience and even though I have suffered from the condition for years I have never gotten used to its effects. I pray every day that there is some scientist right on the cusp of discovering a treatment.

By tigers88 — On Jul 15, 2011

A good friend of mine had rosacea that developed right around the time she hit puberty. Her condition was particularly bad and she had very dark red splotches all over her face.

This was really embarrassing for her because it came out of nowhere and really altered her appearance. No teenage girl wants to feel like they are unattractive. She went to a number of different specialists and tried lots of different treatments but none of them helped. She had a pretty miserable adolescence because of this.

She finally saw a therapist to help her get over some of her self image issues. This ended up being a big help. Her face is still red but she has learned to live with it and got back a lot of her self confidence. She now has a great job, is dating a terrific man and is very happy with her life in spite of the obstacles that have been thrown at her. There is life after rosacea. Hang in there.

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