Rosacea, Explained in Less Than 2 Minutes

Redness in the face is just one symptom of this skin condition.

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Being an active blusher may not seem like a big deal, but there’s more to rosacea than just crimson cheeks. In fact, this skin disorder can affect an individual’s health, self-esteem, and overall quality of life.

Rosacea—meaning “rose-colored” in Latin—is most commonly known for causing redness in the nose and cheeks, as well as the ears, chest, and back. The reason why isn’t completely clear, but one theory is that rosacea causes blood vessels to expand too easily. Normally, blushing occurs when blood vessels expand and blood gets pulled to the face, so if this system is over-reactive, it may lead to rosacea.

Redness is only one of the symptoms of rosacea. Different types of rosacea can lead to different symptoms, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), such as:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea causes redness and visible blood vessels. The skin may sting and be sensitive.
  • Ocular rosacea causes red and irritated eyes, sensitivity to light, blurry vision, swollen eyelids, and cysts on the eyes.
  • Papulopustular rosacea causes redness and inflammatory acne (like papules and pustules). It’s also associated with visible blood vessels, burning skin, and oily skin.
  • Phymatous rosacea causes a thickening of the skin known as plaques, particularly on the nose, chin, forehead, cheeks, and ears. It is also associated with large pores and oily skin.

Dermatologists don’t know exactly what causes the skin to act this way, but they have noted a few trends. Rosacea appears to run in families, so there may be a genetic component. The skin condition is also linked to people with fair skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair—particularly of Celtic or Scandinavian heritage.

Another trend is that many people with rosacea react to a type of bacteria called bacillus oleronius, suggesting an over-reactive immune system may play a role. Similarly, many individuals with rosacea have a particular infection in the intestine or a mite on the skin, but not everyone with rosacea has these features (and not everyone with these features has rosacea).

Rosacea isn’t just a cosmetic issue. The symptoms of rosacea can be painful, unpleasant, and cause long-term damage, such as scarring and vision problems. It can also affect quality of life: Rosacea is linked to low self-esteem, missed work, inhibited social life, and increased anxiety and depression, according to the AAD.

Treatment for rosacea can help identify and manage triggers and protect sensitive skin, both of which can reduce flare-ups of rosacea symptoms. If you are dealing with rosacea, you deserve relief: Talk to a dermatologist for tips to tone down this skin disorder.