CHICAGO (April 3, 2006) -- What at first may seem like an innocent blush or sunburn may ultimately foreshadow rosacea, a widespread but potentially serious facial disorder now estimated to affect more than 14 million Americans. April has been designated Rosacea Awareness Month to alert the public to the warning signs of this red-faced, acne-like condition, and to emphasize the importance of seeking medical help before it becomes increasingly intrusive on daily life.
"Rosacea is frustrating and baffling for so many people because its conspicuous signs and symptoms may not only come and go unexpectedly, but they can affect various individuals in ways few might imagine," said Dr. Richard Odom, professor of dermatology at the University of California - San Francisco. "Unfortunately, without treatment rosacea tends to become progressively worse -- and can have a substantial impact both physically and on people's emotional, social and professional lives."
Rosacea is a chronic disorder, primarily of the facial skin, that usually first strikes between the ages of 30 and 60. For many people, it starts innocently enough, resembling a sunburn or an inexplicable blush. Suddenly, without warning, a flush comes to their cheeks, nose, chin or forehead. Then just when they start to feel concerned, the redness disappears.
Unfortunately, it happens again and again, becoming ruddier and lasting longer each time -- and eventually, visible blood vessels may appear. Without treatment, bumps and pimples often develop, growing more extensive over time, and burning, itching and stinging are common. In severe cases, especially in men, the nose may become enlarged from the development of excess tissue. This is the condition that gave comedian W.C. Fields his trademark red, bulbous nose.
Among the most famous rosacea sufferers is former President Bill Clinton, whose doctors disclosed that he has this condition in The New York Times. Others reported to have suffered from the disorder include Princess Diana, financier J.P. Morgan and the Dutch painter Rembrandt.
In about 60 percent of rosacea sufferers, the eyes are also affected, a condition known as ocular rosacea. An eye affected by rosacea may appear watery or bloodshot, and patients may also experience eye irritation, burning, stinging, itching, dryness or even light sensitivity. In severe cases, corneal complications may result in loss of visual acuity or reduced vision.
Beyond its physical effects, rosacea often inflicts significant emotional and social damage because of its conspicuous impact on personal appearance. In surveys by the National Rosacea Society, nearly 70 percent of rosacea patients said this unsightly disorder had lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem, and 41 percent reported it had caused them to avoid public contact or cancel social engagements. In those patients with severe symptoms, nearly 30 percent said they had missed work because of their condition.
Adding to the embarrassment is the common myth that rosacea sufferers, who often have a red face and nose, are heavy drinkers. In fact, while alcohol may aggravate rosacea, these symptoms can be just as severe in a teetotaler. Another common misconception is that rosacea is caused by poor hygiene, while in reality it is unrelated to personal cleanliness.
"The good news is that, while rosacea cannot be cured, it can be effectively controlled with medical therapy and lifestyle changes," Dr. Odom said. Individuals with any of the following warning signs of rosacea are urged to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and appropriate treatment:
During April and throughout the year, people who suspect they may have rosacea can call the society's toll-free number at 1-888-NO-BLUSH to receive free information on rosacea. Further information and educational materials may be obtained by writing the National Rosacea Society, 800 S. Northwest Highway, Suite 200, Barrington, Illinois 60010, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information and materials are also available on the society's Web site at www.rosacea.org.
The National Rosacea Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of people with rosacea by raising awareness, providing public health information and supporting medical research on this widespread but little-known disorder. The information the Society provides should not be considered medical advice, nor is it intended to replace
consultation with a qualified physician. The Society does not evaluate, endorse or recommend any particular medications, products, equipment or treatments. Rosacea may vary substantially from one patient to another, and treatment must be tailored by a physician for each individual case. For more information, visit About Us.