Red, red rosacea: how research is needed to help this skin condition

Estimates place the number of Americans who suffer from rosacea at more than 16 million. The National Rosacea Society (NRS) defines rosacea as “a redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead that may come and go… Over time, the redness tends to become ruddier and more persistent, and visible blood vessels may appear. Left untreated, bumps and pimples often develop, and in severe cases the nose may grow swollen and bumpy from excess tissue.”

Because of its effects on personal appearance, rosacea can cause additional problems socially, psychologically, and occupationally if untreated. In a survey by the NRS, “more than 90 percent of rosacea patients said their condition had lowered their self-confidence and self-esteem, and 41 percent reported that it had caused them to avoid public contact or cancel social engagements.”

In addition to these immediate effects, there is also evidence that rosacea is associated with higher risks for Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. The authors of a study linking rosacea with Parkinson’s concluded that “This association could be due to shared pathogenic mechanisms involving elevated matrix metalloproteinase activity.” Matrix metalloproteinase is an enzyme which breaks down proteins, which has also been linked to other neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s.

There is no known cause of rosacea, but there are a few factors that are thought to contribute to the condition. These include abnormalities in the facial blood vessels; having fair skin; having a higher number of demodex folliculorum (mites that live on human skin and usually cause no problems); the presence of H. pylori bacteria in the gut, which stimulates a polypeptide known to cause blood vessels to dilate; or having a family history of rosacea. Hot and spicy foods, exercise and hot baths or saunas, stress, some medications and conditions such as hypertension, and alcohol consumption can all be triggers that bring rosacea on or make it worse.

Several type of medications are available for the treatment of rosacea’s symptoms. These include:

• Topical medications that may reduce redness and inflammation
• Oral antibiotics that may reduce inflammation
• Isotretinoin (Accutane), which inhibits the production of oil by the sebaceous glands, but may have severe side effects
• Tetracyclines and blephamides, for those who have symptoms in their eyes, such as dryness, itching, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light

In more severe cases, laser treatments may be used to shrink visible blood vessels, or to remove or shrink excess tissue on the nose. Scalpel surgery may be performed on the nose as well.

Research is critical to improving the prevention, treatment, and eventual cure of rosacea. Meridien Research has rosacea research studies enrolling now at several of our clinics. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 888-777-8839 or visit our individual study pages.