Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What causes rosacea to flare up? Rosacea triggers

If you have rosacea, you will want to take stock of several things in your life that may be affecting your condition; these are called triggers. It’s important to know that what bothers you may not bother another rosacea sufferer. However, finding out what causes other people to have flare-ups may help give you ideas. Let’s go through the triggers.

The most common trigger is vasodilation. This means anything causing the capillaries to expand. Known vasodilators include: alcoholcaffeinehot waterhot weatherflushing/blushingspicy foodssuntanning bedssteam roomswhirlpoolshot drinksangerexercisemenopause and the flushing associated with hot flashes, some medications, especially stimulants like ephedrine (found in many cold and allergy medications), herbal energy pillsstress, and extreme hot (or cold). That’s quite a list, yes?!

I also think vasoconstrictors are potential triggers, backing up my theory that rosacea is first and foremost a vascular condition. Vasoconstrictors include: smokingair pollutioncold weathercold water, and ice (applied to the face). NEVER do this, by the way—rosacea or not!

A mistaken link to rosacea is alcoholism or simply drinking alcohol in any amount. This, no doubt, comes from W.C. Fields who had a form of rosacea that affects the nose (it causes severe redness and swelling) called rhinophyma. And although alcohol can cause all kinds of problems including vascular changes, it is certainly not the only cause of this disease. Alcohol is a common trigger, but there are lots of people who suffer from rosacea, even rhinophyma, who have never touched alcohol in their lives.

I have a client who was having her hardwood floors refinished. She has what I consider to be a mild case of rosacea. She came in for a facial during this floor refinishing phase, and I could see a noticeable flare-up of her rosacea. Not only had the redness in her skin increased, but the poor-quality air in her house was causing severe sinus problems for her, and she was developing cough as well.

I mention this case study to illustrate how things that might not be on the trigger list may still be culprits in causing your rosacea to flare up. Be consciously aware of your environment and what may be affecting your body and therefore your skin.

If you have rosacea you have probably gotten accustomed to what you have to do to keep your flare-ups to a minimum. But in case you don’t know this yet, sun exposure is one of the worst offenders and promoters of flushing and flare-ups. So, to the degree that you can, avoid sun exposure—especially direct sunlight, and always have sunscreen on your face. Everybody needs to wear sunscreen, but those of you with rosacea (especially active rosacea) need to wear it always. Any amount of protection from sun exposure will help to some degree.

There are several companies who make tinted sunscreens. If you feel the need to hide the redness that comes with rosacea, you might want to try one of the these products so you get some coverage for the redness and sun protection at the same time. And certainly if you are going to be out in the sun for a long period of time, be prepared and have a hat handy. If you don’t have a hat, you will be sorry, and the extended sun exposure will probably inflame your rosacea.

What about medications? Topical medications that you may be given a prescription for at the dermatologist include MetroGel, MetroCream, and MetroLotion®. These all contain an antibacterial, antifungal agent called metronidazole. There are other companies who make similar products, but these (especially MetroGel) seem to be the most commonly prescribed.

Oral antibiotics are generally given to treat inflammation and possible bacterial infection in the form of pustules and pimples. Tetracycline, a common antibiotic prescribed for acne, is sometimes recommended for rosacea. Personally, I disagree with taking antibiotics in general and specifically in the case of rosacea.

Treating a problem with oral antibiotics does two things that I have a problem with. First, not only are you treating the problem, in this case rosacea on the cheeks of the face, but you are also feeding all the cells in your entire body the same medication. Second, treating with oral drugs does not generally promote self-responsibility in regard to your problem, but rather promotes a quick-fix mentality, not to mention the effects from long-term use of oral antibiotics. 

Rosacea cannot be treated with a quick fix. It requires paying attention—daily—to what you are eating, and drinking, and the environment you are allowing your skin to be exposed to. Taking a pill may give you temporary relief from the problem, but it will do nothing for long-term solutions. Rosacea may go into a remissive state while you’re on oral medications, but generally it will return if the triggers are not eliminated from your life.

There are many articles on this blog about rosacea as well as related categories like sensitive skin and others that will help you with this skin condition. Here are a few you may be interested in: