Understanding acne and rosacea is not as easy as one might believe. In fact, for many years, it was long believed the two skin conditions were one in the same. It is true that the two skin disorders share many characteristics. However, over time, the differences between the conditions have been highlighted and are now better understood. Here are some facts about the skin disorders, which will help people understand more about acne and rosacea.
In most cases, rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by facial edema or swelling, the presence of pus-filled blemishes or pimples, redness, and dilated blood vessels or “spider veins” on the face. While this disorder can affect both genders of all ages, it is much more common among middle-aged adults between the ages of 30 and 50. It is also three times more common in women than men and among people with light or fair complexions (Caucasians). In some cases, the facial skin becomes reddened, bumpy, and/or oily. In extreme cases of rosacea, the nose could appear scaly, red, and even bulbous or distorted.
In order to distinguish between rosacea and acne, it is important that common signs and symptoms of the two skin conditions are understood. For example, oily skin is much more common among acne sufferers than those affected by rosacea. The presence of comedones (blackheads) occur only among acne sufferers while rosacea involves persistent redness and flushing of the skin. This redness and flushing of the skin is only found among rosacea sufferers. Moreover, body lesions could also be present on other areas of the body (chest, shoulders, back, and scalp) in cases of acne. Whereas rosacea is limited to the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin. Furthermore, acne also tends to manifest itself in earlier life, usually during the onset of puberty or adolescence, while rosacea typically manifests itself during adulthood.
Another important distinction to understand is that rosacea has four subtypes. Three types affect the skin while the fourth affects the eyes, which is known as ocular rosacea. The first subtype is characterized by flushing, facial redness, and visible blood vessels. Other signs and symptoms of subtype 1 include redness and flushing in the center of the face, broken blood vessels or spider veins, a variety of skin afflictions (sensitive/swollen/stinging/burning/dry/rough/scaly skin), along with a tendency to flush or blush more easily than other people.
The second subtype is characterized by periodic acne-like breakouts. Other signs and symptoms of subtype 2 rosacea include a variety of skin afflictions (flushed/red/oily/sensitive/burning/stinging skin), raised skin patches, which are called plaques or plaks, and spider veins. This subtype was previously known as acne rosacea before the distinction between acne and rosacea was better understood.
The third subtype is characterized by a thickening skin. This subtype of the skin condition is quite rare. Other subtype 3 signs and symptoms include oily skin, spider veins, skin texture distortion, enlarged pores, and thickening skin on the chin, forehead, nose, ears, and cheeks. The thickening skin common to this subtype of the condition is particularly common around the nose. When the skin thickens on the nose, it is known as rhinophyma. A person who suffers from this subtype usually has signs or symptoms of another subtype of rosacea as well.
The fourth subtype of this skin condition is referred to as ocular rosacea. It is characterized by photosensitivity, bloodshot or watery eyes, very dry or itchy eyes, blurry vision, cysts or spider veins on eyelids, impaired vision, and stinging/burning/gritty feeling in the eyes. If someone develops this serious subtype of rosacea, it is advised that sufferers seek immediate medical attention.
It is also common for patients to experience more than one rosacea subtype simultaneously. Moreover, sufferers often experience other skin disorders in addition to their rosacea. It is also important to note that if this condition is left untreated, it might worsen over time and with age.
In terms of treatment options, many acne sufferers respond well to over-the-counter or prescription creams while many topical steroid creams can worsen or exacerbate rosacea. On the other hand, oral medications and lifestyle changes have proven quite effective in alleviating symptoms and improving the skin appearance of rosacea sufferers. Similar treatment approaches are also quite effective with many acne sufferers.
In terms of homeopathic or alternative treatment methods, given the sensitive skin commonly attributed to rosacea and acne patients, any home treatments or natural remedies should be used with extreme caution. As with any acne or rosacea therapy, some people could experience sensitivity or irritation with treatment. Some natural remedies for treating acne or rosacea could include dilute vinegar solution, tea tree oil, and green tea applications.
Understanding acne and rosacea is not as clear-cut as one might think. Moreover, the two skin conditions are not one in the same as was long believed. While it is true that the two skin disorders share many characteristics, the differences between the two skin conditions have been highlighted and are now better understood. Now that more facts are known about the skin disorders, it can help people understand more about acne, rosacea, and their differences.
Written and Edited By Leigh Haugh
Medscape–Differentiating Between Rosacea and Acne
American Academy of Dermatology–Rosacea: Signs and Symptoms
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