The common definition of rosacea is a skin disease that produces redness and flushing as well as hard pimples and pustules in the skin of the face. This condition occurs less frequently on the arms, legs, neck, back and scalp. Rosacea is most commonly found in adults of middle age, and for many years it was thought to be a form of adult acne. The episodes of erythema (redness) recur until in the later stages of the disease the flushing is constant and tiny veins become visible under the skin.
Reportedly, in as many as half the patients diagnosed with rosacea the eyes are also affected, with inflamed eyelids and small lumps developing around the eye. Vision can be affected if the cornea is also involved in the disease.
There is no specific test for rosacea, but the symptoms that characterize the disease differ from those of acne and other skin ailments in several respects. The common forms of acne also manifest pimples and pustules but not the redness due to enlarged capillaries, and the blackheads and cysts common to acne are not found with rosacea.
The most effective treatment of rosacea to date is with oral antibiotics such as tetracycline. These treatments reduce inflammation in the skin and small blood vessels, but do not kill any bacteria that may be present. Long-term use of antibiotics is not highly recommended, and many people choose to apply a topical antibiotic directly on the skin. Vitamin A derivatives have also shown promise in reducing both redness and pimples associated with rosacea.
In advanced cases, surgery may be an option for some. New techniques are being used to selectively destroy the blood vessels causing redness and swelling of the face, thereby improving the appearance. There is no cure for rosacea known at this time, but most patients do quite well with ongoing treatments.
The best advice from specialists is about preventing the outbreak of rosacea and minimizing its affects. Some things are confirmed catalysts of a rosacea ‘episode’, and can be avoided once they are identified. These triggers can be anything that irritates the skin, such as harsh soaps and astringents. Hot beverages, spicy foods and any alcoholic drinks are common causes of an outbreak. Using sunscreen and protecting the face from excessive heat and cold are good preventive measures.