Affecting 1 in 10 Britons, rosacea is one of the commonest skin complaints, yet many people have never heard of it. Although the majority of sufferers are female, the worst symptoms appear in men- possibly due to their reluctance to seek medical help for a ‘trivial’ condition. Yet rosacea is far from trivial. It can come to dominate a patient’s life, leading to lasting issues with confidence and self esteem. Celebrity sufferers include the actress Cynthia Nixon, Bill Clinton and Princess Diana.
So what exactly is rosacea?
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition, typically affecting patients between the ages of 30 and 60. Classic symptoms include facial redness, visible blood vessels and- in the most severe cases- a swollen nose caused by excessive amounts of tissue (a condition called rhinophyma). Patients may also report itchy, watery eyes with a bloodshot appearance. It’s divided into four subtypes:
Subtype 1: Often the earliest stage of the condition, this is chronic facial redness affecting the face (though it has been known to affect the neck, chest and scalp). It resembles a blush or sunburn that doesn’t fade; in time blood vessels may become visible. Sufferers may report an itching or stinging sensation.
Subtype 2: Sometimes following on from subtype 1, this is when the redness is accompanied by red pimples, occasionally filled with pus. Unsurprisingly it can be confused with acne.
Subtype 3: The most extreme form of the condition, this is chiefly associated with a bulbous nose, but other parts of the face can thicken and grow larger, causing the skin to have an irregular appearance.
Subtype 4: Gritty, watery and painful eyes that easily become infected. Sufferers may also report sensitivity to light.
As it seems most prevalent in fair skinned Europeans, it’s sometimes been nicknamed “the curse of the Celts,” though this has since been contested. Until recently the cause was attributed to a number of factors- sun damage, stress and alcoholic consumption being the most frequently cited- but scientists have discovered that rosacea sufferers have greater than usual amounts of the peptide cathelicidin, which fights off bacterial infections. It seems to be an inability to produce this properly that leads to rosacea.
Since rosacea itself is so difficult to pin down, treatment is likewise variable. Milder cases are advised to avoid ‘triggers’ such as spicy foods and alcohol. Oral antibiotics are recommended in the early stages of rosacea. As the condition worsens, a patient may be asked to consider laser treatment.
Due to the greater than normal sensitivity associated with the condition, a patient’s skin care routine is vital; they should check with their GP to ensure the products they are using are compatible. Skinstation offers the first range of skin care products specifically developed for rosacea sufferers- their excellent Rosaclear. Not only does it treat redness and pimples, it provides soft non-comedogenic , dramatically reducing the irritation of the skin.