Recognising rosacea is key to treating it, particularly in your 50s
If you are in your 50s and have noticed a worsening of flushing episodes, outbreaks of painful spots or increased redness, it may NOT be down to hormones, to that glass of wine you are drinking, to that spicy food you’re eating or the fact that you’ve just been exposed to extreme cold or heat. It could be a skin condition called rosacea.
Rosacea most commonly develops after 30 (although some people do report it starting in their 20s) but it can be more severe in our 50s.
On the National Rosacea Society (NRS) in the US, Dr John Wolf, Chairman of Dermatology, Baylor College of Medicine, is quoted as saying:
“Rosacea not only can develop at any age, but it is a chronic condition that seldom goes away by itself, and therefore its prevalence may tend to increase as populations advance in age. Moreover, because rosacea tends to become progressively more severe without medical help, the symptoms are often especially intrusive in older patients who have delayed proper diagnosis and treatment over the years.”
Our experience bears this out. Many of our customers come to us in their 50s having probably endured, if they think about it, bouts of rosacea for quite some time and possibly for years. They know their skin is sensitive but are only now finding that the redness or other symptoms are more permanent, something they often ‘dismiss’ as due to the fact their skin has naturally got dryer as they have got older or to hormonal changes.
Rosacea is a little understood condition
Conversations with our customers reveal how debilitating rosacea can be, causing a loss of confidence and self esteem quite apart from being uncomfortable and painful at times. However, the condition remains little understood and, until quite recently, little discussed. Fortunately, the latter is changing and there are now a number of excellent forums, blogs and information sites such as TalkHealth’s Rosacea hub, which are enabling people to get the information and advice they need.
But, of course, in order to get advice and information, someone needs to know they have rosacea rather than assuming their facial redness or prone-to-flushing skin is ‘just one of those things’ they have to put up with.
Rosacea can come and go so sufferers delay seeking treatment
What is also frustrating about rosacea is that it can come and go so, by the time someone might think about seeking help, it has improved and that person assumes it was that red wine they drank or the spicy food they ate or the fact they are going through the menopause etc.
When sufferers do seek help, it is often when the condition has taken hold and damage can be permanent. Repeated bouts of flushing can lead to broken or thinned capillaries resulting in a permanent redness and the condition can progress to sore red lumps known as ‘papules’.
What is Rosacea and how on earth do you pronounce it?
Pronounced rose-ay-shaa (the fact it is so difficult to pronounce doesn’t help matters!), rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition. It has a number of different ‘faces’, presenting differently in different individuals which is why it is so difficult to diagnose.
It can look like a rash, broken veins, pimples (often headless), general redness or inflamed, very red patches of skin. It can affect the eyes too, making them dry or gritty or causing them to sting. Uncommonly, it can cause thickening and bumpy skin although this extreme stage is rare and is seen more in men than women. It often gets mis-diagnosed as adult acne or is attributed to hormonal fluctuations. Yet, according to various studies, one in 10 of us may have rosacea.
So, how do you know if you have rosacea?
The most obvious symptoms of rosacea are:
Redness across the cheeks and possibly chin, forehead and nose. This may come and go but get worse over time. It may look like wind or sun burn or a ‘high colour’.
Flushing. Rosacea sufferers tend to flush easily and be more than usually sensitive to heat, cold, alcohol, spicy food etc.
Broken blood veins/capillaries. Where skin is persistently red or flushing, blood vessels can become weakened over time, leading to visible red veins. This is often called vascular or erythematotelangiectatic rosacea.
Bumps, acne-like spots. These are known as papules and this is often called inflammatory or papulopustular rosacea. They are of a more domed, regular shape than acne spots and do not tend to be painful like acne spots. As with the redness mentioned above, these papules may come and go and ‘flare up’ due to a known, or unidentified trigger or triggers.
Over time, skin can begin to look inflamed and thickened and, in extreme cases what is known as rhinophyma can develop although this is rare among women (think men with big bulbous noses often associated with, but not necessarily due to, drinking).
Because is not yet known whether there is a definitive cause (demodex mites have been cited as a possible culprit but there is no conclusive proof) and, as such, it is not known whether it is preventable and it is therefore not currently possible to ‘cure’ it. The earlier the condition is recognised, however, the more options there are for getting outbreaks under control it and learning to manage rosacea, thereby hopefully limiting long-term damage.
Treating rosacea – take control!
Treating rosacea can require some time, effort and patience. You know your skin and you may need to take control in finding the right ‘programme’ for you.
The first step, particularly if you feel that your skin is beginning to show more permanent damage, is to visit your doctor and mention that you think it could be rosacea and what treatment options are available to you. If you are experiencing severe rosacea symptoms such as papules, ask for a referral to a dermatologist.
There are treatments available from topical gels and creams to antibiotic treatments to laser therapy. Below we have listed a number of good information sources about the options available.
The next step is to try and identify the triggers that set off your episodes. This can mean keeping a diary to monitor your skin on a daily basis. Take photos too (a painful thought, we know, but it could be useful in a flare-up to remember what your skin looked like when it calmed down!). Then, find a good skin care programme and stick to it.
Despite their claims, most cosmetic products cannot ‘cure’ rosacea. Many companies or ranges say that their products can cure the condition but they are misleading people into spending a lot of money on products that are unlikely to work and which will, in many cases, end up making the problem worse, particularly where they contain perfume, essential oils and plant and flower extracts. So, it is important to do your own research, try products carefully, slowly and individually and don’t get downhearted because what worked for one person doesn’t work for you.
The good news is that, while there is not cure, you can get to grips with rosacea and enjoy better skin in your 50s and beyond!
Information about rosacea
- Cracked fingertips: Stop the superglue!
- 20 tips for caring for sensitive skin