Rosacea (also known as 'acne rosacea'), which means 'rose-coloured' in Latin, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition affecting the face where a persistent pink to red coloured flush appears on the cheeks, nose and forehead. It can also occur on the neck, ears, chest and the scalp).
It affects both men and women, with around 5% of the population having rosacea, but it is more than three times more common in women than in men. Onset is generally between the ages of 30 and 60. It is also more common in fair-skinned, blue-eyed people and people with sensitive skin. Although women are affected more than men, in men the symptoms can be more severe, where the flush is more pronounced due to a higher number of broken or enlarged capillaries (blood vessels) and may be accompanied by an associated condition called rhinophyma, where the skin on the nose becomes very red, swollen and misshapen.
In some cases, the skin may develop small red bumps and pustules with a burning or stinging feeling. The eyes may also become dry and red.
What causes rosacea is not known; however, some research findings point to a possible sensitivity in sufferers to a microscopic mite - the Demodex mite - that lives in the pores of the skin. Other theories suggest the condition is primarily genetic and linked to higher than normal levels of specific enzymes and peptides in the facial skin of sufferers. Rosacea, like many skin conditions, has environmental 'triggers' associated with flare-ups. Such as temperature extremes, such as moving from a warm environment to a cold one or vice versa (e.g. in winter going out of a warm building into the outdoors or the other way around), strenuous exercise or any overheating (e.g. when asleep in a warm bed), some cosmetics, some topical medications (i.e. medicated skin creams), the heat from sunlight or sunburn, stress or anxiety, cold wind on the face, alcohol consumption, drinks containing caffeine (and particularly if hot, e.g. tea, coffee), foods with a high histamine content (e.g. fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut and foods containing vinegar)
In addition to avoiding the triggers above, there are several medical treatments available for rosacea.
Azelaic acid (to reduce lesions)
Salicylic acid (anti-inflammatory)
Brimonidine gel (which reduces the redness)
Topical/oral antibiotics (to relieve inflammation)
Lasers or 'intense pulsed light' devices can be used to lessen the red discolouration caused by the blood vessels under the skin by damaging them so that they are absorbed by the surrounding tissue.