March is Rosacea Awareness Month – Recognizing the signs and symptoms and how to treat them

This winter has left many red in the face with irritated skin caused by harsh winds and dry indoor conditions. For the nearly two million Canadians with rosacea, this redness can be painful and embarrassing.

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that is under recognized as a skin disease. It often presents itself with redness of the central face in the nose and cheek area. Many sufferers complain of flushing and a hot burning sensation involving the cheeks. The redness is often accompanied by pustules that look like acne. This often leads sufferers to believe they have adult acne and turn to acne medications that will only further irritate the skin and make the symptoms worse. Everyone is familiar with acne, but few are familiar with rosacea. It is important that patients are aware of the signs and symptoms of rosacea and see their family doctor or dermatologist for treatment as soon as symptoms appear.

Symptoms of rosacea typically develop in individuals between the ages of 30 and 60 and tend to affect more women than men. Those with fair hair and light coloured eyes, specifically of Celtic, British or Eastern European nationalities, are also at a higher risk of developing the condition. There is a strong genetic component to rosacea and most sufferers will have at least one family member who also has the skin disease.
Though the cause of rosacea is unclear, there are triggers that induce symptoms. These include: hot and really cold temperatures; sun exposure; spicy foods; alcohol; caffeine; stress and smoking. Smoking is known to make skin more sensitive to the sun and patients with rosacea who also smoke might experience more flushing of the skin and increased inflammation on the cheeks. Patients who have a lot of redness with their rosacea often become even more red and flush at times of extreme emotional stress. Each patient will know their triggers. It’s important that they identify these triggers and avoid them as much as possible.

There is no cure for rosacea, but there are treatments to minimize symptoms. Early recognition and treatment of rosacea is vital as it is a progressive disease. Research has shown that rosacea is an inflammatory condition, not a bacterial infection as previously thought. This has led to the development of innovative, anti-inflammatory treatments. Apprilon is one such medication. Its unique, low-dose formulation targets the inflammatory response that causes the pimples associated with rosacea without producing the harmful antibiotic effect of some other treatments. For patients presenting redness and flushing, laser therapy can also be an effective treatment option.
With the warm weather on its way and patio lunches to be enjoyed, rosacea sufferers must learn to identify their triggers, avoid them, and seek treatment as soon as possible.

Dr. Shannon Humphrey is a dermatologist based in Vancouver. Her clinical and research interests include acne, rosacea, and cosmetic dermatology.

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Dr. Shannon Humphrey