Rosacea: Early Diagnosis and Management are Key

Rosacea is a common skin disorder, affecting approximately 1.5 million Canadians

Rosacea is a common skin disorder, affecting approximately 1.5 million Canadians. Managing rosacea is not always easy, but according to Dr. Beatrice Wang, a prominent dermatologist at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), the earlier that people are diagnosed and managed, the better their long-term outcomes.

roseaRosecea is not a lifethreatening disorder, but it is chronic and can become socially debilitating. In fact, the skin may be fine for months or even years before the disorder erupts again. If left unmanaged, the rosacea may worsen over time.

There are many stages of rosacea, and they do not necessarily progress from one stage to the next. There can be simply an erythematous stage, with redness or easy flushing of the skin. There is also a papular/pustular stage which can resemble acne. One can also have telangiectasias, or dilated blood vessels, and all stages can overlap with each other. Rhinophyma, an enlarged nose with prominent redness and blood vessels, is a less common form of rosacea, and predominantly affects men. There is also a form of ocular rosacea, where there are frequent episodes of styes, and an irritated, gritty sensation in the eyes.

The disorder usually appears between the ages of 30 and 50. It affects women slightly more than men.


What Causes It?

“We don’t actually know for sure what causes rosacea,” says Dr. Wang. “The disorder is often seen in several members of the same family, so we think it may be at least partly genetic.” Rosacea seems to affect fair-skinned people more often, although it can affect any skin type. Dr. Wang says known triggers of rosacea include sun exposure, extreme temperatures, hot beverages, spicy foods, aerobic exercise, and alcohol, so these exacerbating factors should be avoided.

The condition is incurable, but it can usually be managed with appropriate therapy and preventive measures. “It is important to be diagnosed and treated when the symptoms first appear,” says Dr. Wang. “Early symptoms are easier to control, with less risk of progression of the rosacea.” Dr. Wang says various antibiotics such as tetracyclines or topical metronidazole are effective. Dermatologists also use vascular lasers to treat persistent redness and prominent vessels. In addition, Dr. Wang recommends daily use of sun protection to prevent progression of the rosacea.