While many adults still look forward to summer as eagerly as schoolchildren, new survey results show that increased exposure to sun and hot weather can wreak havoc on those with rosacea, a widespread, red-faced skin disorder now estimated to affect more than 16 million Americans. The survey also found that a variety of common heat sources can affect the condition year-round.
In a recent survey of 431 rosacea patients conducted by the National Rosacea Society (NRS), 80% of the respondents said they had suffered a flare-up of symptoms as a result of being out in the sun, and 80% said their condition was aggravated by hot weather. Excessive indoor heat was a trigger for 56% of those surveyed, while 55% said heavy exercise had set off a rosacea flare-up.
Fifty-four percent said a hot bath had induced an outbreak of rosacea signs and symptoms, and 42% said heated beverages had done the same. Heavy clothing had triggered a flare-up for 32%, and 26% cited menopausal hot flashes.
“Although medical therapy is available to help control this widespread and chronic disorder, it is also important for rosacea patients to identify and minimize any environmental or lifestyle factors that may trigger or aggravate their symptoms,” said Dr. Joseph Bikowski, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Ohio State University. He said he advises patients to keep a diary to determine what factors might be affecting their individual cases.
In addition to common heat triggers, survey respondents reported a host of other sources of heat that had aggravated their individual conditions, including fireplaces and bonfires, high-intensity lamps, steam baths, saunas and cooking over a hot stove.
The good news is that the survey showed rosacea flare-ups can often be prevented. Nearly 84% of the respondents reported that avoiding sources of heat had reduced the frequency of their flare-ups. Seventy-four percent said they now bathe or shower in cooler water, and nearly 69% said they go outside less often in hot weather to avoid exacerbating their condition. Sixty-seven percent said they frequently or sometimes leave an overheated room to prevent an outbreak, and 55% said they had changed their exercise routine to avoid flare-ups.
“Rosacea sufferers should wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 year-round, and especially in the summer, they should minimize time outdoors from 10 am to 2 pm when sunlight is the strongest,” Dr. Bikowski said. He noted that a fan or chewing on ice chips can effectively reduce flushing from heavy exercise or excessive indoor heat.
Rosacea is a chronic disorder that is often characterized by flare-ups and remissions. It typically begins at any time after age 30 as a flushing or 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 small blood vessels may appear. In many cases bumps and pimples may develop, and in severe cases the nose may become swollen from excess tissue. In many patients, the eyes are also affected, feeling irritated and appearing watery or bloodshot.
Information and materials on identifying and avoiding triggers, as well as other key aspects of rosacea, are available on the NRS Web site.