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Rosacea is a common chronic skin disorder of the central face that is estimated to affect more than 16 million Americans. It is a syndrome that consists of various signs and symptoms including skin redness, telangectasias (red dots), swelling, papules and pustules (pimples), eye lesions, and rhinophyma (excess growth of skin on the nose). Also included may be burning and stinging of the skin and the feeling of something in the eye. Rosacea typically first appears between the ages of 30 to 60. In addition, people with rosacea often report lowered self-esteem and embarrassment at their physical appearance. For example rhinophyma, which causes redness and bulbous enlargement of the nose, used to be slangly referred to as a “beer nose.”

Recent medical research has suggested that rosacea may have deeper connections with general health as it has been linked to an increased risk of serious systemic disorders. A recent study done in Taiwan found that those with rosacea were more likely to have hypertension, elevated lipid levels, coronary artery disease, and peripheral arterial disease. Other studies have found links to thyroid cancer, skin cancer, allergies, respiratory diseases, female hormone imbalances, GERD, and urinary diseases.

There is no diagnostic test for rosacea. Rather the diagnosis is usually based on the presence of primary and secondary symptoms. Rosacea may be confused with acne, sun-related skin damage, and the skin changes found in lupus. Age is the key factor in differentiating between acne and rosacea. ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) testing was often used to differentiate between lupus and rosacea, however people with rosacea were often found to also have elevated ANA levels, making differentiating between the two more difficult. A history of extensive sun exposure can differentiate between rosacea and sun-damaged skin.

The natural history of rosacea is characterized by periods of remission alternating with periods of exacerbation. This often makes treatment problematic. Treatment consists of oral and topical medications including antibiotics, light therapy, laser therapy, and skin surgery. Lifestyle modifications need to be made as rosacea can be triggered by factors such as sun exposure, emotional stress, hot and cold weather, wind, heavy exercise, and alcohol consumption. Skin care is important as well. Consistent, gentle skin care is important. Skin irritation can be triggered by (topical) alcohol, witch hazel, fragrance, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus oil, or harsh scrubbing.

Definitive diagnosis of rosacea is usually made by a dermatologist. If you have been diagnosed with rosacea, it is important to get to your medical doctor to be sure that you do not have any of the other diseases that have been linked to it.

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