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April 1, 2019 • read
Treating rosacea to put your best face forward
Despite the fact that rosacea affects more than 3 million Canadians, doctors still don’t know exactly what causes it. Many people are not familiar with rosacea either, and misdiagnose it as acne when it first appears. But treating it the same way as acne can make it worse. Learning to recognize the difference between the two conditions and seeking help in the early stages, can diminish the impact of rosacea. While there isn’t currently a cure, there are treatment options that can lessen the symptoms. Combining these with lifestyle changes, can reduce or even eliminate flare-ups in some cases.
What is rosacea?
Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that causes redness and sometimes pimple-like bumps on the face. There is no test you can take to determine if you have it. Instead, your doctor will diagnose it based on signs, symptoms and your personal history. While you might have signs of it earlier, rosacea typically doesn’t develop until you reach your 30s. And rosacea doesn’t go away with age — you can even develop it in your 50s.
While doctors don’t know exactly what the causes of rosacea are, different factors can exacerbate symptoms. Since the sun, heat and exercise are among them, lifestyle changes are often required in addition to dermatological intervention.
While it can’t be cured, rosacea can be treated. And it’s important to treat it because rosacea will not go away on its own. Over time, occasional redness can become permanent. And in about half of cases it also affects the eyes, which is called ocular rosacea. This form of rosacea often begins with swollen eyelids, bloodshot or stinging eyes, or feeling that you have something in your eye. While ocular rosacea is also highly treatable, without intervention it can go on to affect vision quality. In some extreme cases it may also cause blindness. Usually, people develop ocular rosacea after their facial rosacea becomes apparent, but in some cases the ocular form can precede the facial one.
Symptoms of rosacea
Rosacea sufferers often report that the earliest signs of the condition are frequent flushing and blushing. Over time, facial redness may increase, especially in the chin, nose, cheeks and forehead. Some also develop broken blood vessels on their face. In more severe cases, the skin on the nose may actually thicken (called rhinophyma), and the nose may take on a bulbous appearance.
Rosacea misdiagnosis can be a real issue. Because of symptoms like redness and pimply bumps that mimic the signs of acne, some sufferers assume that’s what they have. But acne treatments such as salicylic acid can increase redness and irritation if applied to skin suffering from rosacea. If there’s any doubt that your symptoms might not be acne, your best bet is to see a dermatologist. Better to err on the side of caution than to cause potentially painful damage to your skin.
Rosacea and mental health
Your face is the first thing others see when they meet you. That’s why a skin condition like rosacea can be so debilitating. Many with rosacea describe feeling stigmatized and worry that it negatively impacts their social life and even employment opportunities. Research shows a link between skin disorders and depression, so those with rosacea should be aware of the mental health component, and speak to their doctor regarding any concerns.
Treatment for rosacea
The good news is that rosacea is highly treatable. In addition to topical and oral medications, your doctor might suggest laser treatment. Lifestyle factors can also help. Many find that caffeine and alcohol exacerbate symptoms, so staying away from them is a good place to start. And while there is no evidence supporting a specific “rosacea diet,” many find that spicy food or hot drinks (like tea or hot chocolate) can cause a flare-up.
Protecting your skin from the elements is also crucial, as wind, heat and the sun can also aggravate symptoms. It’s important to be gentle with your skin in general. While you might want to try and scrub or exfoliate the rosacea away, this will almost certainly make things worse. Those with rosacea often have highly sensitive skin, so speak to a dermatologist to develop the best skin-care routine for your face. Finally, makeup can help to reduce much of the redness that comes with the condition, although it obviously doesn’t address the underlying causes.
Rosacea can be challenging to live with, especially since anything that affects our appearance has an impact on our self-confidence and the way we interact with the world. It can be tempting to ignore the symptoms and hope they’ll go away. But rosacea should always be examined by a doctor; with the right medical treatment and lifestyle changes, real improvements can be made.
Getting a dermatologist appointment to treat conditions such as rosacea can take months. With Maple, you can get a dermatologist’s assessment in 24 hours or less. Currently this service is available in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Coming soon to other provinces.