Those suffering from rosacea often feel as though there is little they can do to combat their symptoms. Typical approaches may only provide minimal relief for the unsightly red bumps and pustules that can accompany a flare up.

Anyone is at risk for developing this pesky condition, though people developing rosacea frequently experienced lots of acne in the past. While it affects over 16 million Americans, very few people actually know much about this disorder prior to being diagnosed with it.

What Does Rosacea Look Like?

Unsightly, bothersome, and embarrassing, rosacea is a very common skin condition with the frustrating tendency to flare up at the most inopportune moments. Left untreated, it tends to worsen over time. People with rosacea often suffer self-esteem issues due to the symptoms they experience. Sometimes it may be mistaken for acne or an allergic reaction. Symptoms may wax and wane, sometimes appearing and disappearing for weeks or months at a time.

Symptoms usually start with a tendency to blush more readily, and progress to facial redness, mostly in the central part of the face. The tiny blood vessels on the nose and cheeks often swell and become visible. Many people will also develop acne-like, swollen red bumps that resemble pimples. They often contain pus. Sometimes skin may feel tender and hot. A good number of people also experience dry eyes, irritation, or swollen, red eyelids. These symptoms may show up before the other visible symptoms. Some may experience rhinophyma, or a swollen, bulbous nose. This is a result of the thickening of the skin of the nose due to enlargement of the sebaceous (oil) glands.

The condition usually gradually worsens with age, and many rosacea sufferers have reported that, without treatment, their condition had advanced from early to middle stage within a year. Over time, many people will experience a permanent redness in the center of their face.

Understanding Rosacea

Rosacea is considered to be an incurable auto-inflammatory condition.

For skin to function properly, the outer layer must be in great shape, providing a barrier to prevent cracking, provide UV protection, and kill microbes. Often, this outer layer is damaged and can lead to a variety of skin diseases like rosacea. When the skin barrier is impaired bacteria, irritants, and pollutants can penetrate into the deeper layers of skin, causing additional problems.

Certain things can trigger or aggravate rosacea by increasing blood flow to the surface of the skin. They may include:

  • Temperature extremes
  • Alcohol
  • Emotions like stress and anxiety
  • Exercise
  • Spicy foods
  • Hot drinks
  • Smoking
  • Sunlight
  • Wind
  • Cosmetics
  • Drugs that dilate blood vessels including some blood pressure medications

Where Does Rosacea Come From?

Sadly, you may not necessarily be doing anything wrong. Rosacea isn't the result of poor hygiene. The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, but it could come from a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.

It's possible that rosacea may come from an inherited gene. Oftentimes family members will also experience this condition.

Scientists have found that most people with one type of rosacea react to the bacteria known as bacillus oleronius, causing an immune system overreaction. They believe this might play a role, and have noticed that the presence of this bacteria often correlates to overpopulation of the demodex mite. Demodex is found on everyone's skin, usually on the nose and cheeks, places you're likely to see a rosacea flare-up. Studies are finding that this mite is seen in large numbers on people experiencing rosacea, though it's also found in large numbers on others that aren't, so scientists are up in the air on this one.

Some individuals may express an abnormality in how the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin) processes an amino acid chain important to immune response.

Controlling Rosacea

While there is no cure, often times avoiding trigger foods and beverages can help to keep flare-ups at bay. Sun exposure is another big factor, so protecting yourself from the sun may go far towards avoiding the inflammatory response. Find ways to cope with your stress, but exercise in moderation, as the increased blood flow can contribute to redness.

There are a few topical products and other therapies that have provided some people relief. Talking with your dermatologist is an important step in managing your case. They may suggest Brimonidine to tighten blood vessels, azelaic acid to clear up bumps and swelling, or antibiotics like metronidazole or doxycycline to kill off the bad bacteria and decrease redness. Some acne drugs may help to clear the skin bumps. Other therapies aimed at reducing the demodex mite population are something else worth considering.

Doctors have also found that making proper diet choices or using alternative treatments can often help to reduce or control your rosacea symptoms. Nicholas Perricone MD, a dermatologist and author of The Wrinkle Cure, advises to eat foods high in healthy fats like cold-water fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Since inflammation is tied closely with bacteria, eating foods high in probiotics and taking a probiotic supplement daily will help to balance the good bacteria in the digestive system.

Be very gentle with your skin. Use only mild products, not harsh cleansers. Don't scrub. Opt for products that moisturize, and avoid irritants like alcohol and fragrances. Seek topical products that contain probiotics to help create a barrier, protecting the skin from bad bacteria and parasites. Probiotics help kill the bad bacteria, fighting the harmful bugs that trigger inflammation and can calm cells down, easing the inflammatory response from the inside out.

Most of all, don't stress over it. Many people are going through the same frustrations, and becoming emotional about how you look will only add fuel to the fire.