Rosacea is a little-understood skin disorder. It is characterized by facial redness and sometimes pimples. This acne-like appearance often causes embarrassment and other emotional difficulties to sufferers.

While much is unknown about the causes of rosacea, it is understood to have a hereditary aspect, as it primarily affects those of North-Western European descent, especially British and Irish.

The symptoms commonly appear between the ages of thirty and fifty, presenting themselves as an erythema, or redness, of the central face and spreading over the nose, cheeks, forehead, and even the neck, chest, back and ears.

This may worsen to a semi-permanent rash with red-domed papules and pustules, and, in extreme cases, a red, lobulated nose. Though millions of people are affected by rosacea, there is no cure for it. There are some treatments for the condition that result in a decrease of symptoms and may even put the disorder into remission. Many cases, however, are mild enough to simply be covered up with cosmetics and many people do not realize that they display symptoms of rosacea at all.

Rosacea is a chronic skin disorder that appears as persistent redness over the parts of the face we normally associate with blushing. The small blood vessels under the skin enlarge and become more visible. They can often be seen as tiny red lines. Pimples, similar in appearance to teenage acne also may occur. There are four main types of rosacea. Individual people may have more than one of these forms of the disease.

  • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea is one of these main types. It is characterized by a largely permanent redness of the face and a tendency to blush easily. Small blood vessels are usually visible near the surface of the skin and an itchy, burning sensation often accompanies it.

  • Papulopustular rosacea also occurs with some permanent redness, but is most identified by red bumps and some pus-filled pustules, lasting from one to four days. This type is often confused with acne.

  • Phymatous rosacea is the type of rosacea that causes an enlarged nose. Its symptoms include thickened skin over the chin, cheeks, eyelids, ears, and forehead, as well as irregularities and nodules. Characteristic rosacea symptoms, like redness and enlarged blood vessels, may also be present.

  • Ocular rosacea affects the eyes. It causes them to become red, dry and irritated. They may also itch, burn, and feel as if something was in them.

Rosacea has been estimated to affect over 14 million Americans, and possibly 45 million people world-wide. Many of these people don’t even realize they have the condition. As the baby boom generation enters more susceptible ages for the disease this number grows. A recent Gallup survey found that as many as 78% of Americans do not know enough about the disease to identify its characteristics.

Symptoms of Rosacea

There are four main types of rosacea. Each has its own set of symptoms and area it tends to affect. The general characteristics of rosacea which may, or may not, be present are:

  • Redness of the cheeks, chin, forehead, or nose

  • Small, visible blood vessels near the surface of the skin

  • Red bumps or pimples on those areas of the face

  • Watery, irritated eyes

In addition to the physical symptoms, rosacea carries some emotional and psychological ones. In surveys done by the National Rosacea Society, more than 76% of patients said their condition had adversely affected their self-confidence and self-esteem. Some even said that it had caused them to avoid public contact. Nearly 70% of patients with severe symptoms said the disorder had negatively affected their professional interactions, and almost 30% said they had missed work because of their condition.

It’s these psychological effects of rosacea that cause most people to seek treatment for the condition. Though the physical symptoms are often mild and may not cause discomfort, it’s the resolution of them that alleviates the emotional ones.

So very much is unknown about rosacea, but one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that rosacea is hereditary. It appears most often in people of North-Western European descent, especially those from a Celtic origin. Being light-skinned is a common characteristic to most sufferers. The symptoms of rosacea usually appear in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. Women are affected as much as three times as often as men. The early signs of rosacea begin to show up as a sort of blushing after exercising, changes in temperature, and facial cleaning.

While researchers do not understand or agree on the exact causes of rosacea, they can identify some triggers for the symptoms. Temperature extremes can cause the blushing to appear, especially a brisk wind, heat from sunlight, or moving from a cold environment to a warm one. Strenuous exercise or even the agitation from washing one’s face can cause the characteristic redness and enlarged blood vessels. Some foods and beverages may also trigger the symptoms in some people. These include alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and spicy things.

While no one can change the genetic aspect of rosacea, they can work to avoid the triggers of the symptoms. This can help control the severity and frequency that the flushing and other aspects of the condition present themselves.

Treatments for Rosacea

The treatments for rosacea depend on the type and severity of the condition in the individual. Many mild cases are not really treated at all. People simply cover up the redness with cosmetics. Oral or topical antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed medications for rosacea. Some acne medicines sometimes prove effective for cases with papules or pustules. Medication will reduce the symptoms, but they will usually return a few weeks after ceasing the treatment. Long-term use of medication may result in permanent control of rosacea or even a complete remission.

In addition to prescription medication, there are a few non-traditional ways to try and control rosacea. The first of these is avoiding one’s individual triggers. The National Rosacea Society recommends keeping a diary to help identify triggers. Sunlight is a very common one, so sunscreen is often a good way to avoid rosacea’s symptoms, as well as wearing hats with large brims. For those whose rosacea affects their eyes, gentle hygiene helps.

Sulphur and coal tar are older remedies, that, while hazardous, are still used today. These traditional psoriasis treatments also seem to work on rosacea. If they are in diluted concentrations (0.5% to 5% in the case of coal tar), they are safe to use.

Laser treatment provides some of the most effective results for rosacea symptoms. The laser light penetrates the skin and heats the visible blood in the vessels, which damages the vessels’ walls and causes the body to reabsorb the veins and arteries. After a sufficient number of treatments, lasers may completely eliminate the redness associated with rosacea, but additional treatments may be necessary to deal with newly formed capillaries.

Though there is no actual cure for rosacea, there are several things one can do to reduce its symptoms. These methods or remedies depend on a person’s specific triggers and the severity and type of their rosacea. Not everything will be appropriate or effective for every case.


Rosacea is most likely to develop in people between the ages of 30 and 60. It is also much more common in fair-skinned people of North-western European decent, especially those with Celtic roots, such as Irish, Welsh, and Scottish.

Rosacea is a skin condition that doctors do not fully understand. What is known about rosacea is that is hereditary. Fair-skinned individuals who trace their ancestry to North-western Europe, especially from Celtic roots, are particularly susceptible. In addition to the physical symptoms of redness and pimples, rosacea can have psychological effects.

While there is no actual cure for the condition, rosacea can be treated and triggers can be avoided to lessen occurrences and severity. By reducing the physical effects, the psychological ones will also subside.

Rosacea is caused by genetics. There is no way to avoid getting rosacea. If one is destined to get rosacea, he or she will end up showing symptoms of it.

However, one can avoid some of the triggers of the condition, especially if he or she has the ancestral predisposition for rosacea. Fair-skinned people should wear sunscreen and shade their faces from direct sunlight and try to keep from being exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations. Avoiding the common triggers may prevent one with the condition from ever displaying obvious signs of rosacea or will lessen the effects in those suffering from it.

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