by Shelly Lane
Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin disorder that affects an estimated 13 million Americans. The most obvious symptoms of the disease are a red face and acne, but Rosacea goes much deeper than that to affect every aspect of the lives of those who suffer from it.
Can you imagine a disease where you can’t be out in the sun for more than a few minutes at a time?
Can you imagine a disease where you can no longer drink alcohol or eat spicy foods?
Can you imagine a disease where you have to be in a controlled environment of a cool 65-70 degrees 365 days a year/24 hours a day because anything warmer than that causes your disease to worsen?
Can you imagine a disease that causes nerve damage to your face that in turn causes burning and pain when the above “triggers” occur or sometimes for no reason at all?
Can you imagine the pain of having an eyelash stuck in your eye every day for more than a year – except that there’s nothing there and no way to aleviate the pain?
Can you imagine having a “sunburn look” on your face every day of the year even though you haven’t been out in the sun for years?
If you can imagine all of these things, you can begin to imagine what it’s like to live with the disease called Rosacea.
Most people (and most doctors, for that matter) believe that Rosacea is simply a disease that causes a red face and acne. Yes, it looks weird but get over it – it’s just your face, right? But as you can see from above, Rosacea is much more than that. The following is a description of the disease written by Dr. Geoffrey Nase, Ph.D from the article, “The Red Face of Rosacea.”
Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin disorder that affects an estimated 13 million Americans. It occurs in both sexes and may begin in the teenage years. The most common symptoms include facial redness across the nose, cheeks, chin and forehead, visibly damaged blood vessels (telangiectasia), and small red inflammatory papules. The condition develops gradually as mild episodes of facial blushing or flushing lead to a permanent red face. Individuals with fair skin, particularly those of Scottish, Irish or Celtic descent are more predisposed to rosacea, although dark-skinned individuals are not spared.
Current medical opinion favors a multi-factorial mechanism where the basic defect is due to facial vascular hyper-responsiveness or dysfunction. Recurrent facial flushing or blushing is believed to be one of the major causative factors. Anything that triggers a facial flush or blush (an increase in blood flow through the facial blood vessels) can worsen rosacea symptoms. Potential triggers for flushing can be external or internal in origin. Common external triggers include sun, wind, hot environments, cold environments, vasodilator medications, physical irritation, irritating acne products, sunscreens, cosmetics or skin care products. Additional external triggers can come from various foods or beverages (thermally-hot or spicy foods, and alcoholic beverages). Internal triggers include stress, anxiety, strong emotions, hormone-related conditions (i.e., menstrual-, menopausal- and disease-mediated), and exercise-induced overheating.
I’ve been suffering with this disease for more than 20 years. Even though I’ve seen doctors for most of the symptoms listed above, I have never officially been diagnosed with this disease. A few years ago the symptoms suddenly worsened, so I got on the Internet and did the research myself. That’s when I discovered that my symptoms were caused by a disease that had a name – Rosacea.
There are 5 sub-types for Rosacea:
Subtype 1: Erythematotelangiectactic Rosacea – facial redness, flushing and blushing
Subtype 2: Papulopustular Rosacea – papules and pustules, the “acne” form of the disease
Subtype 3: Phymatous Rosacea – facial skin growth, thickening of the skin, more common in men
Subtype 4: Ocular Rosacea – eye symptoms including watery, bloodshot eyes, foreign body sensations, dryness, burning, itching and blurred vision
Subtype 5: Neuropathic Rosacea – burning and pain sensations following exposure to triggers which can become semi-permament
I suffer from subtypes 1, 2, 4 and 5. There are topical medications for Rosacea that help mostly with the acne symptoms of the disease. I don’t use these medications since my Acne Rosacea outbreaks are infrequent at this time. The best treatment for the other subtypes that I suffer from is laser treatments, or more accurently called Intense Pulsed Light therapy or IPL.
I have had five IPL treatments: two in 2003 and three in 2005. These did help my disease, but the treatments are expensive and not covered by health insurance so I have never had the recommended 6-10 consecutive treatments necessary to really knock out this disease. In case you’re wondering – yes, the treatments hurt. It feels like a hundred bee stings on your face, one at a time.
I have never shared this before with my online friends. I know a lot of people have serious challenges that they have to deal with on an ongoing basis, and I am certainly not unique in that respect. I just see and hear a lot of misinformation about this disease, even on some of the medical web sites, and want to help get the word out to promote a better understanding of what it’s like to live with Rosacea. There’s a lot more to it than just a “red face.”