April is Rosacea Awareness Month. Keep reading to learn more about the skin condition, how to recognise if you have it, avoid triggers and what you can do to help.
What is rosacea?
Rosacea is a common, chronic inflammatory skin condition, which mainly affects facial skin and can be characterised by flare-ups and remissions.
It's more common in women and people with lighter skin, but symptoms can be worse in men. Rosacea can occur at any age, but usually occurs in adults older than 30 years.
Symptoms of rosacea
The first signs of rosacea include:
- redness (blushing) across your nose, cheeks, forehead and chin that comes and goes
- a burning or stinging feeling when using water or skincare products
The redness may be harder to see on darker skin.
As rosacea gets worse, your cheeks, nose, skin and forehead will be red all the time..
Tiny broken blood vessels that do not go away may appear on your skin.
In some people with rosacea, the eyes may also be affected. Signs and symptoms may include: redness of different parts of the eye and eyelid, dryness, itching, burning, tearing, gritty sensation, light sensitivity and blurred vision.
Other symptoms can include:
- Dry skin
- Swelling, especially around the eyes
- Yellow-orange patches on the skin
- Sore eyelids or crusts around roots of eyelashes – this could be blepharitis
- Thickened skin, mainly on the nose (usually appears after many years)
Causes & triggers of rosacea
The exact cause of rosacea remains unclear as of yet, however, a number of theories have been proposed, which include the possible role of genetics, immune system factors, environmental triggers and the Demodex mite.
It is not known what causes rosacea, but some triggers can make symptoms worse. Common triggers for rosacea include:
- Spicy foods
- Hot drinks
- Aerobic exercise like running
When to contact your GP
Contact your GP if you have rosacea and:
- Your eye is painful
- Your vision is blurred
- You're sensitive to light
- You have a red eye
- Your eye feels gritty
These could be signs of keratitis, which can be serious if not treated urgently.
Treatment for rosacea
Rosacea cannot be cured but treatment from your GP can help control the symptoms. It can get worse if it's not treated.
Your GP may suggest:
- Prescriptions for creams and gels you put on your skin
- Taking antibiotics for 6 to 16 weeks
- IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment
Your GP may refer you to a skin specialist (dermatologist) if treatments are not working.
Things you can do to help
Rosacea is not caused by poor hygiene and it is not contagious. But there are things you can try to help with symptoms.
If you know that a trigger makes symptoms worse, try to avoid it as much as possible.
- Wear a high SPF sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day
- Try to avoid heat, sunlight or humid conditions if possible
- Try to cover your face in cold weather
- Use gentle skincare products for sensitive skin
- Clean your eyelids at least once a day if you have blepharitis
- Take steps to manage stress
- Do not drink alcohol
- Do not have hot drinks
- Do not have too much caffeine (found in tea, coffee and chocolate)
- Do not eat cheese
- Do not eat spicy food
- Do not do too much aerobic exercise, like running