Rosacea often presents as redness on the cheeks and nose, or can look like adult acne which causes embarrassment, shame and loss of self-esteem. Part of the issue is the number of misconceptions that surround rosacea – like it being caused by an over-consumption of alcohol.  Awareness and understanding of rosacea are key to finding a proper treatment. 

Understanding rosacea

Caused by enlarged blood facial vessels, rosacea reddens the skin, giving it a flushed look. If left untreated, it can worsen with the development of bumps and pimples (papulopustular rosacea), or in more severe cases, the swelling of tissue around the nose. Symptoms also include visible blood vessels, dry, rough skin, and a burning or stinging sensation. It is commonly misdiagnosed – most often as acne – or not addressed at all. While there is no cure, symptoms can be managed and minimized.

“Because it is hereditary, many patients dismiss it and chalk it up to it being just the way their skin is,” says Dr. Melinda Gooderham, a dermatologist with the Centre for Dermatology in Peterborough, Ontario. “There’s no need to suffer with it. A dermatologist can offer help by acting as a valuable resource on ways to managing potential triggers.”

Some of these include: sun exposure, stress, hot or cold weather, spicy food, caffeine, intense exercise and some skincare products. Recent studies suggest that microscopic Demodex mites that are normal inhabitants of everyone’s skin, may be more plentiful on the faces of those with rosacea.

Dispelling the myths

While alcohol consumption (especially red wine) can be aggravating, the long-held belief that heavy drinking is responsible for the condition is a common misconception that is hurtful to those with rosacea. It’s a painful stigma to live with. In truth, non-drinkers can suffer from rosacea, too. 

“Don’t give up – even if you’ve tried treatments in the past and they have not worked. See your doctor to see what’s new.”

It’s not surprising that nearly three quarters of rosacea patients report having low self-esteem.

“It can significantly affect people’s lives,” says Dr. Gooderham. “During a flare-up, they will cancel social engagements because of their condition. It can affect someone’s choice of occupation, like preferring not to work with the public. It alters day to day living.” Her key piece of advice for those with rosacea is: “Don’t give up – even if you’ve tried treatments in the past and they have not worked. See your doctor to see what’s new.” 

How a specialist can help

Generally, rosacea sufferers only visit a doctor after they experience embarrassment because of their condition or when others comment on it. A dermatologist can explain that some people are genetically predisposed to rosacea. Symptoms can be minimized successfully and triggers managed through lifestyle modification.

And there is cause for optimism on that front. There are major breakthroughs in the treatment of papulopustular rosacea, including a new topical cream available by prescription that has shown an effect in as little as two weeks in clinical studies. It requires application just once a day, compared to twice for some other topical creams, and the new medicine also causes less irritation for some. Some research has shown that the rosacea doesn’t return as quickly after stopping treatment in some patients. That’s news worth celebrating for rosacea patients.