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Your skin and rosacea

Rosacea is a common disorder that mainly affects skin on the face. It causes redness on the nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead. Over time, the redness can become more intense, taking on a ruddy appearance. Blood vessels may become visible.

In some cases, rosacea appears on the chest, ears, neck, or scalp. It can affect the eyes, causing them to feel irritated and to appear bloodshot or watery. If rosacea is not treated, red solid bumps and pus-filled pimples can develop. The disorder can cause the nose to take on a bulbous, swollen appearance called rhinophyma.

Causes of rosacea

The cause of rosacea is not known, although there are several different theories.  One theory is that rosacea may be part of a more generalised disorder of the blood vessels. Other theories suggest that the condition is caused by microscopic skin mites, fungus, psychological factors, or a malfunction of the connective tissue under the skin. Although no-one knows definitely what causes rosacea, some circumstances and conditions can trigger the condition.

Risk factors for rosacea

Rosacea affects one in 10 people in the UK -- most don't know they have it.

People who have fair skin and who tend to blush easily may be at a higher risk of the condition. Rosacea appears more often among women, but men tend to have more severe symptoms. A possible reason for this could be that men generally delay medical treatment until rosacea becomes advanced.

Is there a cure for rosacea?

While there is no cure for rosacea, medical therapy is available to control or reverse the signs and symptoms. If you suspect that you have rosacea, consult your doctor.

Signs and symptoms of rosacea

Rosacea's appearance can vary greatly from one individual to another. Most of the time, not all of the potential signs and symptoms appear. Rosacea always includes at least one of the primary signs listed below. Various secondary signs and symptoms may also develop.

Primary signs of rosacea include:

  • Flushing. Many people who have rosacea have a history of frequent blushing or flushing. The facial redness, which may come and go, is often the earliest sign of the disorder.
  • Persistent redness. Persistent facial redness may resemble a blush or sunburn that does not go away.
  • Bumps and pimples. Small red solid bumps or pus-filled pimples often develop in rosacea. Sometimes the bumps may resemble acne, but there may be blackheads. There may also be burning or stinging.
  • Visible blood vessels. Small blood vessels become visible on the skin of many people who have rosacea.

Other potential signs and symptoms include:

  • Eye irritation. The eyes may be irritated and appear watery or bloodshot in some people with rosacea. This condition, called ocular rosacea, can also cause styes as well as redness and swelling of the eyelids. Severe cases, if left untreated, can result in corneal damage and vision loss.
  • Burning or stinging. Burning or stinging sensations may occur on the face, and itchiness or a feeling of tightness may also develop.
  • Dry appearance. The central facial skin may be rough, and thus appear to be very dry.
  • Plaques. Raised red patches may develop without changes in the surrounding skin.
  • Skin thickening. In some cases of rosacea, the skin may thicken and enlarge from excess tissue, resulting in a condition called rhinophyma. This condition often occurs on the nose, causing it to have a bulbous appearance.
  • Swelling. Facial swelling can occur independently or can accompany other signs of rosacea.

Signs and symptoms of rosacea may develop beyond the face, affecting areas including the neck, chest, scalp, or ears.

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