Blushing is a normal body reaction. However, if you get red bumps that are a bit like acne, then you might have rosacea. Rosacea is a skin condition that begins subtly, with the intermittent appearance of redness along the cheeks and nose. Sometimes, prominent swelling of the face can occur and your skin may sting and burn.
What is rosacea?
Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is commonly mistaken for acne or eczema. Studies about rosacea have become focused on the antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin which occurs naturally on the face. Its function is to control vasoldilation, or blood flow of the skin, and to prevent the growth of bad bacteria. However, in people with rosacea, cathelicidin is present at much higher concentrations and in a different molecular structure, which means that it no longer functions normally. Overabundance of this defective peptide triggers over-dilation of the blood vessels on the face, which then causes the intense redness of the skin.
Cathelicidin also fails to inhibit the bad bacteria on the skin, which then activates the immune system into an inflammatory mode. This also results to the skin being hyperreactive, meaning it quickly reacts to normal environmental stimuli such as sunlight, food, and temperature. Another factor is that there are also microscopic mites that carry bacteria, which then irritates the skin and potentially causes skin infections due to the impaired cathelicidin peptide.
- Redness on the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead (less often on the neck, head, ears, and chest)
- Stinging and burning sensation on the skin
- Rough, dry patches
- Swollen, bulb-shaped nose
- Larger pores
- Broken blood vessels on the eyelids
Who gets rosacea?
Women are slightly more likely to get rosacea than men and it is commonly diagnosed in fair-skinned individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. While women are more prone to get this condition, men on the other hand, are more likely to experience a more advanced condition, which causes thickening of the skin.
There are several things that may cause rosacea flare-ups. However, triggers that may affect one person may not affect someone else. Common triggers include:
- Heavy exercise
- Sun exposure
- Spicy foods
- Alcoholic beverages
- Emotional stress
- Hot or cold temperatures
Common Types of Rosacea
- Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (also known as vascular rosacea)
This type causes redness and flushing with the blood vessels becoming visible, sometimes looking like tiny spider webs.
- Papulopustular rosacea
This type is often confused with acne, and presents as redness and swelling with breakouts. However, unlike acne, no blackheads appear with this condition.
- Phymatous rosacea
With phymatous rosacea, the skin becomes thick with a bumpy texture.
- Ocular rosacea
People with this type of rosacea experience redness and irritation in the eyes and/or swollen eyelids, plus a burning sensation in one or both eyes which may also appear bloodshot.
While there is no treatment yet for rosacea, there are ways to manage the symptoms. Daily sunscreen can be used as protection to prevent flare-ups. Sunscreens should be broad-spectrum, protecting against UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protective factor of 30 or higher. There are also various topical creams to help ease discomfort, especially when acne-like bumps are present on the skin. Intense pulse light therapy can also be used to improve redness associated with rosacea. Doctors would also recommend dermabrasion, or the process of sanding off the top layer of the skin, and electrocautery, a procedure that involves the zapping of damaged blood vessels.