Don’t see red, get the facts about rosacea

Princess Diana, comedian W.C. Fields and President Bill Clinton all have suffered from rosacea. (WTOP/Getty Images, AP Photo)

Paula Wolfson, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A lot of people see red when they look in the mirror.

They are among the 16 million Americans who have rosacea, a common skin condition that sometimes seems to mimic adult acne.

“They don’t look alike to a dermatologist, but they can look alike to a patient,” says Dr. Howard Brooks with Skin Cosmetic Dermatology of Georgetown.

However, rosacea and acne are very different.

“Unlike acne, which is due to bacteria and hormones and stress, rosacea is an inflammatory response,” Brooks says.

There are other differences. Rosacea is confined to the face, while acne can occur on the chest, back and other parts of the body.

And while rosacea produces facial flushing and bumps on the skin, it does not cause the whiteheads and blackheads that plague acne patients.

Brooks says it is a fairly common condition, seen mostly in adults. Both men and women are affected, but women see slightly more cases.

Although most patients with the condition are fair-skinned, African-Americans can develop it too.

It even hits the rich and famous. Actor W.C. Fields had a form of rosacea, so did Diana, Princess of Wales. Former President Bill Clinton also struggled with it, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

No one is really sure what causes rosacea, though it’s thought that alcohol, stress and spicy foods may be among the triggers.

Over-the-counter treatments are available. However, Brooks says anyone who thinks he may have rosacea should see a dermatologist.

While antibiotics are used to treat acne, anti-inflammatory drugs are the best choice for rosacea. Chemical peels can help, and Brooks says laser therapy is an up-and-coming option.

He also advises patients to use sunscreen liberally as sun exposure can aggravate the condition. There also are special make-up products on the market that can help cover the redness. These treatments may not cure the condition, but they can provide an emotional boost until medication kicks in and their rosacea is under control.

The National Institutes of Health has more information about rosacea’s causes and symptoms.

The American Academy of Dermatology offers tips for managing rosacea.

The National Rosacea Society offers additional resources for people, including frequently asked questions and how to find physicians.

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