Rosacea is a condition where the skin turns red for prolonged periods of time. It is most common in fair skinned people – largely because it is more noticeable. It also more common in women, though possibly because they take more notice of their skin. And it mainly strikes between the ages of 20 and 50. It doesn’t attract a huge amount of attention from the medical profession: I imagine they have more serious conditions on their minds. But it is very distressing if you actually have it.
The reason the skin is red is because there is a low level inflammatory reaction going on. This has a number of effects on the skin, but the main one is erythema. This simply means that the blood vessels are dilated and carry more blood. This red colour is what gives the condition its name. Rosacea is the latin for rose. Come to that erythros is the greek for red. So that explains the names, what explains the actual condition?
Causes of Rosacea
The answer is that you get much the same result from a number of quite different causes. One is simply that you might have a particularly active immune system that gets triggered off in the skin relatively easily. The most common trigger according to a survey by the American Rosacea Society is sunlight. Other triggers are emotional situations, alcohol and skin care products.
There doesn’t seem to be much that can be done in these cases apart from identifying and avoiding triggers. I suppose anti-inflammatory drugs might work, but your immune system is not something you want to suppress without very good reason.
But there are two specific causes that have been identified that can be treated.
The first is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. This was first identified, initially controversially, as a major cause of stomach ulcers. Later on it was found on the skin of some rosacea sufferers. Applying a gel containing a powerful antibacterial cleared up a large proportion of cases in a clinical trial. The product name is Metrogel, and I have seen it work near miracles in some cases. In the UK Metrogel is prescription only, so you’ll have to go to your doctor for it.
Another cause is Demodex folliculorum, the face mite. If you haven’t heard of this creature before it might sound a bit gross. It is a microscopically small insect that lives in the top part of the pores in the skin. It is in fact extremely common. Over a quarter of people are walking around with a population of them on their skin and can live their whole lives none the wiser. We don’t like to think about them too much and almost nobody talks about them outside biology lectures. The link isn’t as clear cut as in the case of the bacteria, and it doesn’t suggest any particular treatment. But it is not unlikely that it is not so much the mite that is the problem as bacteria associated with it, so again an antibacterial might be the answer.
What can you do about Rosacea?
So if you suffer from rosacea your options are basically to observe carefully what triggers it off. If it occurs all the time, get to a doctor and see if he or she thinks it is worth trying antibacterials.
One obvious solution if you can’t find a way of clearing it is to use a foundation. There is no reason to believe this will do any harm. It won’t make it worse in the long run. If you are unlucky and happen to have a reaction to a particular product, you will soon spot it and can change to another.
Best of luck.
A particularly good review of rosacea.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the image of Helicobacter pylori, one of the causes of rosacea