Could you have a disease and not know it? Yes, according to the National Rosacea Society. In fact, 14 million unknowing Americans have rosacea. Shocking as this statistic may be, it’s even more shocking when you learn the disease is becoming more widespread.
WHAT IS ROSACEA?
Rosacea is a chronic skin disease related to acne. The symptoms of rosacea are clearly visible and it often mistaken for sunburn, windburn, chapped skin, or in my part of the country, frostbite. I have had rosacea since I was a teenager. Living with rosacea isn’t easy, but I have learned to do it.
Controlling my rosacea is an ongoing task. In my teenage years I was embarrassed to have rosacea. I’m a grandmother now and I’m still embarrassed. When I walked in the dermatologist’s office her first words were, “I can see your heritage on your face.” (She was beautiful and had flawless skin.)
The dermatologist was referring to the fact that rosacea usually strikes people who are 30-50 years of age, have fair skin, and blue eyes.
“I have British and German heritage,” I replied.
“I can tell,” she said.
Though some men have rosacea, more women have it than men, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Rosacea is often a family disease. “Some people believe the social and emotional effects of rosacea are worse than the physical symptoms,” the ADD notes. I agree with this statement because I have almost all of the symptoms of rosacea.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
People with rosacea (and you can spot them in a crowd) usually have red faces. Some people have splotches of red on their cheeks or noses. Do you have rosacea? Examine your face closely in a mirror. Look for these symptoms:
* red areas on your face, particularly your cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead
* tiny, visible blood vessels around your nose
* blemishes (which may flare)
* watery eyes
* dry, red eyes
* itchy eyes
* thicker skin on parts of your face, such as the forehead
Rosacea can spread to your ears, neck and head, so it’s important to keep it under control. Few treatments were available during my high school and college years. I was advised to keep my face clean, avoid fatty foods, and use a sunlamp. After I married and had children a dermatologist gave me a prescription for special make-up. I wore the make-up for several years but stopped because it did not help my rosacea and my face always felt hot.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
Thank goodness treatments have improved since my student years. Early identification of the disease is the key to successful treatment, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. See a dermatologist right away if you think you have rosacea. While there is no cure for rosacea, it can be controlled, and even advanced cases improve with proper treatment.
The ADA lists treatment options on RosaceaNet and they are topical creams, antibiotics, acid peels, cleaning eyes with diluted baby shampoo, dermabrasion, light and laser therapy, and vascular lasers. I take a daily antibiotic and use a cream that slowly peels my face. My insurance plan won’t pay for the cream, despite a medical diagnosis of rosacea, so I have to pay for it.
I just had my prescription refilled at my local pharmacy. Several months ago a tube of cream cost $100. This time it cost me more than $200. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. After I got home I checked the internet prices and found I could buy it for $50. You can bet that I will never have this prescription filled at my local pharmacy again. I will also check with discount store pharmacies before I order over the internet.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you are diagnosed with rosacea you should follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. Rosacea is an ongoing condition, and you have to keep after it. My rosacea flares though I am religious about taking my antibiotic and using the cream. This is common, according to the National Rosacea Society, and it has posted a list of “tripwires” on it website.
These tripwires include hot weather, sun exposure, frigid weather, and stress. What you eat and drink may also cause rosacea to flare. For some reason people with rosacea blush easily and their faces flush easily if they drink alcohol. If you imbibe you should drink slowly and monitor your intake.
The National Rosacea Society says you should also be careful about eating spicy foods and hot foods (coffee, tea, soup) which may cause flushing. It also says you should avoid hot showers, hot baths, hot tubs, and saunas. Heavy exercise may also cause rosacea to flare. People with rosacea share common symptoms, but each case is different, and you may discover other tripwires.
For example, I used to use an abrasive facial cleanser, but don’t any more because it irritated my rosacea. I don’t use perfume and wear Almay make-up. To relieve my dry eyes I keep a bottle of artificial tears in the kitchen and in my purse. Rosacea even influences my clothing purchases. You won’t find any bright pink or red clothes in my closet. Instead, I wear flattering colors, such as blue, and neutral colors.
Do you have rosacea? If so, you are in famous company. The famous actor, W. C. Fields had rosacea and was known for his bumpy nose. President William Clinton has rosacea. Some famous ice skaters have it too, though I can’t recall their names. Rosacea is treatable and you don’t have to suffer. See a dermatologist now. Get started on your treatment and a better life.
Copyright 2006 by Harriet Hodgson