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Rosacea: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

Reviewed by
Date published
26/03/2022
Date last updated
01/03/2022
Length of read
6 Minutes

Affecting approximately 10% of people in the UK, rosacea is a common skin condition that is mainly present on the face. Although there is not yet a definitive cure for the condition, there are various ways in which rosacea can be treated and controlled, for symptoms to be reduced.

What Is Rosacea?

Sometimes referred to as acne rosacea, rosacea is a long-term skin condition that mainly affects the face (in particular the nose, cheeks and forehead). For the majority of people, rosacea will occur between the ages of 40-60, and the skin condition is more prominent in women; however, men who do suffer from rosacea are likely to have more severe symptoms. Despite the name, rosacea isn’t actually a form of acne, though it can sometimes resemble the condition.

What Are The Symptoms Of Rosacea?

Though the skin condition can present itself in numerous ways, rosacea generally begins with flushing and redness to the cheeks – with the severity of further symptoms depending on each individual case. Further symptoms can include:

  • Red bumps that usually sting or burn (and can be accompanied by swelling) – these often closely resemble the spots experienced with acne
  • Dry skin that is rough and scaley around the affected area on the face
  • Visible blood vessels surrounding the cheeks and nose
  • Irritated eyes that usually appear bloodshot or watery, with visible blood vessels around the lids – this is referred to as ocular rosacea.

Can Anyone Get Rosacea?

While anyone can suffer from rosacea, it is more prominently found in certain groups of people. These groups include women, smokers, fair-skinned ethnic groups, and those who have a family history of rosacea, as it is known to be passed on genetically. Rosacea is also more likely to occur in people aged 40-60, though it isn’t uncommon for people to experience the skin condition in their 20’s.

What Causes Rosacea?

While doctors don’t know for certain what causes rosacea, studies have revealed that the following may be possible reasons for the skin condition:

Gut Bacteria:

Helicobacter Pylori, a bacteria present in the digestive tract, is known to stimulate the production of a protein that can dilate and expand blood vessels – the protein is called Bradykinin. A further theory is that Helicobacter Pylori can, for some people, generate a larger amount of Gastrin – a digestive hormone known to cause flushing of the skin.

Genes:

Research has shown a strong link between certain variants of the human genome (a complete set of nucleic acid sequences for humans, coded as DNA) and cases of rosacea.

Sun Damage:

Sun damage may play a part in the occurrence of rosacea, as constant exposure to the sun’s rays without wearing protection can begin to break down the elasticity of the tissue within our skin. As a result of this, it increases dilation of the blood vessels and can therefore be responsible for the red flushes and visible capillaries showed on the skin of rosacea patients.

Mites:

For many people, microscopic mites (referred to as Demodex Folliculorum) live unnoticed on the skin, however, those suffering from rosacea can have a higher quantity of the bugs present on their faces. This in turn may play a role on the risk of rosacea occurring, as the mite’s faeces react with the skin.

For many people living with rosacea, there are certain triggers that can make their symptoms even worse. Common triggers for the skin condition include:

  • Spicey foods
  • Hot drinks
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Cheese
  • Aerobic exercises

What Treatments Are Available For Rosacea?

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with rosacea, or your symptoms are worsening, book an appointment with your GP to discuss the best treatment plan for you. As the severity of symptoms of rosacea will differ depending on the individual, a variety of treatments may be necessary to keep the skin condition under control. Here are a few of the ways in which rosacea can be treated.

Avoid Touching or Covering The Irritated Skin

Many people who suffer from rosacea may feel uncomfortable or self-conscious of their skin, but it’s important to understand that covering rosacea can just make it worse. Many makeup products and cosmetics contain harsh ingredients, formulas and fragrances that irritate the skin further and deepen the redness. Likewise, rubbing or touching affected skin can cause rosacea symptoms to worsen, so try to leave the skin alone as much as possible to help relieve it.

Always Wear SPF

It’s important to avoid sun exposure as much as possible, which means wearing SPF whenever outside – even in the colder, winter months. Consider taking further measures to shade your skin from the sun, such as wearing wide-brimmed hats when in direct sunlight.

Oral Treatments

Your GP may recommend oral antibiotics to help alleviate the symptoms of rosacea. Antibiotics can not only reduce the inflammation of the skin, but also reduce the swelling caused by the red bumps. Oral medication for rosacea is often prescribed for a number of weeks.

Laser Treatments

Though a pricey option, laser or intense pulse light (IPL) treatments can be a slow and steady approach to reducing the symptoms of rosacea. The treatments have been shown to minimise the facial redness associated with the skin condition, and can reduce the appearance of visible blood vessels, too.

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments are generally the first route your GP will take in treating rosacea, before moving on to oral treatments if necessary. There are a variety of treatments available, which is beneficial for patients as some may cause further symptoms to the skin such as itchiness, burning or dryness – you can discuss with your GP which treatment will be best suited to you, and which you’re most likely to find success with.

The most common topical treatments prescribed are Azelaic Acid cream or gel, Metronidazole cream or gel or Ivermectin cream. The treatment’s directions are usually to be applied one or twice a day and can in turn reduce the appearance of bumps on the skin.