Imagine being told you should avoid hot baths and strenuous exercise and should steer clear of alcohol and spicy food, as well as hot beverages like coffee and tea. Then imagine you’re told you should also be careful not to get too much sun or wind exposure and should refrain from getting stressed out, angry, or embarrassed too often. If you’re someone who has been diagnosed with rosacea, chances are your doctor has warned you about these potential lifestyle and environmental triggers that could cause your symptoms to flare up.
What Is It?
As defined by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), rosacea is “a chronic (long-term) disease that affects the skin and sometimes the eyes. The disorder is characterized by redness, pimples, and, in advanced stages, thickened skin.” There is no cure for rosacea, and the cause of the condition is still unknown, but people who have it will often go to great lengths to find a way to treat it. Aside from first identifying, and then avoiding, conditions that trigger redness, many seek over-the-counter and prescription-only treatments as a way to make the symptoms go away.
Vitamin C is believed to be effective in treating rosacea because it contains anti-inflammatory bioflavonoids, which help to strengthen blood vessels. Some researchers think rosacea is caused by blood vessels that dilate too easily, which can cause redness (thus all the warnings about hot temperatures and spicy foods). If this is the case, vitamin C may help counteract the inflammation, as it supports weakened blood vessels. Other researchers have suggested that the inflammation and redness are linked to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) released by some inflammatory cells. In this case, taking a vitamin C supplement can help because it protects skin against free radicals, which are produced by oxidative stress. Nikki Melet, a certified physician assistant at a dermatology office in San Francisco, likes vitamin C products because, she says, “They are an excellent source of an antioxidant. It is well tolerated in patients with sensitive skin and those with skin conditions like rosacea.”
More Serious Solutions
A number of other prescription-only treatments can be used to control rosacea. Topical and oral antibiotics such as tetracyclines, an antibiotic that helps treat bacterial infections, have been shown to reduce inflammation. Someone with a mild case may be given a topical solution, while someone with more severe symptoms might be prescribed an oral treatment.
In addition, there is a growing list of topical products on the market that promise to control inflammation. One of these products, Finacea, contains azelaic acid, which combats redness with its antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Intendis Inc., of the Bayer Group, which manufactures Finacea, has released The Rosacea App, a Smartphone application that functions as a go-to guide for people managing rosacea. The app is free and comes with helpful tools like a Trigger Tracker and Substitution Finder.
While no cure for rosacea exists, viable options for controlling symptoms do. However, as with most other medical conditions, early detection is of utmost importance. So, if you believe you’re beginning to see signs of rosacea, it’s best to first consult a dermatologist before trying anything on your own. Take control of your situation before it takes control of you—by doing so, you’re sure to ward off any unnecessary stress, anger, and embarrassment.