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Although rosacea has become increasingly recognized as a common and conspicuous red-faced disorder, mounting evidence has shown that it can cause far more emotional stress and physical pain than previously known. April has been designated as Rosacea Awareness Month by the National Rosacea Society (NRS) to alert the public to the warning signs of this chronic and often progressive condition now estimated to affect more than 16 million Americans.
“Emotional stress frequently exacerbates or induces rosacea symptoms, creating a tailspin for many patients,” says Richard Granstein, MD, chairman of dermatology at Cornell University. “Combine this with the physical discomforts and the social impact of the disorder, and there are many aspects of rosacea that go well beyond its effects on personal appearance alone.”
Rosacea usually first strikes individuals between the ages of 30–60, and may initially resemble a simple sunburn or an inexplicable blush. Suddenly, without warning, a flush comes to their cheeks, nose, chin or forehead. Then, just when they start to feel concerned, the redness disappears.
Unfortunately, it happens again and again, becoming ruddier and lasting longer each time--and eventually visible blood vessels may appear. Without treatment, bumps and pimples often develop, growing more extensive over time, and burning, itching and stinging are common.
In severe cases, especially in men, the nose may become enlarged from the development of excess tissue. This is the condition that gave comedian W.C. Fields his trademark red, bulbous nose. In some people the eyes are also affected, feeling irritated and appearing watery or bloodshot. Severe cases of this condition, known as ocular rosacea, can result in reduced visual acuity.