Tell Me About

Published: Wednesday September 5, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday August 14, 2013 MYT 1:11:50 PM

Rosacea: Red skin disorder

Rosacea is a common skin condition that, if left untreated, can cause quite severe complications.

MY friend has been suffering from red patches on her face for a very long time. At first, she thought she was just flushed from the heat, but it persisted for a very long time. Then she thought she was going to develop pimples, but they never came on. Finally, she went to a skin doctor and she was told she has rosacea. I have never heard of this condition. What is it?

Rosacea (pronounced roh-zay-sia) is a very common red skin disorder around the world, though it affects primarily white people who have fair skin. It’s estimated that at least 45 million people around the world suffer from it.

It’s uncommon in people with dark skin. It usually affects people in their 30s to 50s. Women are primarily the victims, though if you are a man, you might have a very severe version of it.

People who have rosacea have red or pink patches. Sometimes, you can see small broken blood vessels on these. Occasionally, there can be acne-like red bumps which may or may not contain pus. There may also be red cysts. It can also affect the eyes.

An example of a famous individual who suffers from it is former US president Bill Clinton.

It is not contagious or infectious, and you won’t get it if you are close to someone who has it or use a face towel of someone who has it.

Is it then not common in Malaysia?

It’s more common than we think. A statistical website gave its prevalence around the world as one out of 20 people.

Most people who have rosacea don’t know they have it. They just assume they blush very easily or are sensitive to the sun or allergic to something.

Some people think it’s acne and attempt to treat it with acne medicine. Others think they have rosy cheeks and are proud of it.

Some people even mistake it for sunburn.

Is rosacea only found on the face?

Yes, it’s a facial skin condition. It involves the central region of your face where you usually find flushing, such as your forehead, lower half of your nose and chin. It affects especially your nose.

It has flares and remissions, and it comes and goes.

Rosacea is aggravated by blushing. Over time, it may become worse, especially if you don’t recognise it and treat it.

It must be noted that rosacea can coexist with acne. But unlike acne, rosacea is an adult disease, whereas acne is a disease of teenagers. But most teenagers grow up and their acne disappears. Rosacea cannot be outgrown.

What causes rosacea?

To this day, no one knows what causes rosacea. There seems to be genetics involved, as members of a family tend to get rosacea. It’s certainly more common in people who blush easily.

Rosacea tends to flare up with anything that causes you to blush. Examples include emotional upsets, embarrassment, fear, anxiety and stress. Strong winds, sun exposure or a change in humidity may also aggravate the skin condition.

If you drink alcohol or eat spicy foods, this may also trigger rosacea.

Rosacea may be dormant for weeks or months, and then flare up again. As time goes by, your skin may fail to return to its normal colour. Then you start to see enlarged blood vessels on your skin.

My college-aged daughter has a very red face. How can I tell if it’s acne or rosacea?

Acne has blackheads and/or whiteheads. Rosacea does not have these.

You cannot “squeeze” a red bump in rosacea or ask your facial consultant to “extract” it. If you try to squeeze that red bump, very little clear fluid will be expelled.

People with rosacea tend to have a pink tinge to their skin (called “rosy” skin). People with acne do not have skin that is so pink.

Can I just leave rosacea alone? I mean, it’s not exactly life-threatening, right? I kind of like being called ‘rosy-cheeked’.

No. You can’t leave rosacea alone. You have to treat it, because if you don’t, it will get worse.

When it is in its advanced stage, it can disfigure your nose. Your nose may become very red and grow bulbous and enlarged. This is called rhinophyma, and it occurs especially in men.

Your cheeks may become puffy. You may look as though you have ingested too much alcohol. There may be thick, ugly bumps on your nose and cheek.

Advanced rosacea can also affect your eyes. There can be burning, dryness and grittiness, which usually means conjunctivitis. You may be sensitive to light. If left untreated, rosacea can impair your vision.

Is there a cure for rosacea?

Rosacea cannot be cured. But it can be controlled with laser therapy, intense pulse light, photodynamic therapy, antibiotic creams and a drug called isotretinoin.

You need to see a dermatologist for these options. Some acne medications also work for rosacea since there is an overlap.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health advice, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Tags / Keywords: Health, Lifestyle, Health, rosacea, rosy skinned, blushing

More Articles

Filter by

Passengers of an Airbus A380-800 airctaft of Emirates Airline disembark after landing at Tehrans IKA airport on September 30, 2014. Dubais Emirates Airline made a one-off flight to the Iranian capital, for the first time with its flagship Airbus A380 plane to celebrate its recent introduction of more flights on the route. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI

Deep vein thrombosis: A bad clot

30 October 2014

Beware blood clots in the deep veins of the body.

Hidden danger: You can get hepatitis A not just from eating contaminated cockles, but also from contaminated food or water. - Filepic

What are hepatitis A, B, C, D, E and G?

3 July 2014

My brother’s eyes turned yellow and he had mild fever. The doctor told us he had hepatitis. I'm told this is quite common in our country.

epa03192046 A Kashmiri Muslim potter leaves his footprint in the mud as he works on an earthen pots in the outskirts of Srinagar, India, 22 April 2012. Earth Day is marked annually on 22 April, to raise awareness and public responsibility in environment-sustainable practices to care for the earth.  EPA/FAROOQ KHAN

Why do I have flat feet?

24 April 2014

A person with flat feet or fallen arches has low arches or no arches at all.

My mother has Alzheimer’s

10 April 2014

It’s a disease that progressively ‘steals’ the identity of it’s sufferer. What’s left is a shell that used to be your loved one.

I don't know what a psychometric questionnaire is

27 March 2014

The Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire that you can fill in to give an indication of your psychological preference and how you perceive the world.

Seeing clearly through surgery

6 March 2014

Surgical methods to improve eyesight.

My neighbour's kid has Down Syndrome

13 February 2014

Down syndrome or Trisomy 21 is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21.

My uncle has prostate cancer

29 January 2014

One of the most common cancers in men is prostate cancer.

What's this lump in my breast?

16 January 2014

The many causes, benign and otherwise, of breast lumps.

What colour is your urine?

1 January 2014

There are many reasons for cloudy and discoloured urine.


Recent Posts