Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that most often affects the face. Without treatment, the condition can worsen over time. Because many of the symptoms of rosacea are similar to those of other disorders, the condition is often misdiagnosed.
There are four subtypes of rosacea, and each has its own common symptoms, though individuals can experience a combination of types.
The most common sign of rosacea is constant facial redness, often similar in appearance to a heavy sunburn. The redness usually occurs in the center of the face in a butterfly shape covering the cheeks and the bridge of the nose. It may also spread to the neck, chest, and forehead in rare cases. Unfortunately, facial redness is easy to mistake as a sunburn or a passing reaction to an allergen. Rosacea may go undiagnosed even with this distinctive symptom.
Flushing is a phenomenon whereby the skin becomes extremely red in a localized area for a short period. In those with rosacea, flushing occurs primarily on the face. In some cases, it may also appear on the neck and chest. Usually, these individuals flush in response to sunlight, heat, or physical exertion. Occasionally, heat may radiate from the affected area as well.
A common manifestation of rosacea is the appearance of swollen, red bumps on the skin. These bumps may or may not contain pus, and are similar in appearance to acne. However, rather than oiliness or blackheads, people with rosacea have dry, flaky, and patchy skin. The bumps associated with this condition also do not cause scarring, further distinguishing them from acne.
Rhinophyma is a rare complication that occurs only in severe cases of rosacea. It causes thickened skin due to excess tissue formation, which can give the nose a bulbous appearance. Men with fair skin develop this condition more often than women, and it generally occurs over many years of repeated rosacea flare-ups. Some people may experience thinning of the skin, instead.
Rosacea patients sometimes experience telangiectasia or spider veins, visible blood vessels on the skin's surface. Over time, the blood vessels in the skin of people with rosacea widen, making them more evident. Early treatment of rosacea can usually prevent this symptom. It is difficult to treat spider veins once they develop.
Ocular rosacea occurs when eye problems accompany rosacea's distinctive rash. In some cases, this symptom can be disabling. Affected individuals report the frequent sensation of a foreign body in the eye, and may experience dryness and irritation or inflammation of the eyelid. In rare cases, the cornea swells, leading to pain, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. This reflects a severe version of the disease and increases the risk of eye infections and vision loss.
Sensitive skin is a common problem for people with rosacea. They tend to develop high sensitivity to sunlight, heat, cold, and facial products. Individuals with the condition should strive to avoid extreme weather and water temperatures and take care when using new makeup or skin care products.
People with rosacea may feel pain or soreness on the facial skin. Burning, itching, and mild stinging sensations are common complaints. The affected skin also tends to become dry and rough, conditions rarely eased by creams or moisturizers. Plaques or red patches may appear on the skin, and swelling of the entire face is fairly common. Tenderness of the face can also be caused by thinning skin or increased blood flow.
Some people experience extreme dryness or rough patches. Skin care products used to treat other effects of the condition sometimes contribute to this symptom. Often, the dryness leads to painful cracks and flaking and embarrassing dry spots. Creams that are rich enough to combat the dryness may cause a reaction, so it is important for patients to be mindful of what they apply for relief.
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