Rosacea, a chronic and often embarrassing disorder of the facial skin that affects an estimated 14 million Americans, may be linked to genetics, according to a new survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society (NRS) and published in Rosacea Review. The NRS survey of 600 rosacea patients found that nearly 52% of the respondents had a relative who also suffered from the condition and that people of some nationalities are more likely than others to develop the disorder.
Of those who said they had a relative with rosacea, most indicated it was an immediate family member. Thirty percent reported their mother has or had rosacea, while 35% indicated their father, 28% cited a sister and 24% named a brother. In some cases more than one family member was indicated.
In addition to family history, the survey found that national ancestry also may be an indication of relative risk for rosacea. Rosacea has often been called the "Curse of the Celts," and data from the new survey supports the theory that it is especially prevalent among the Irish. Thirty-one percent of the respondents reported they had at least one parent of Irish ancestry, while only 11% of the United States population is of Irish heritage, according to the 2000 U.S. Census figures.
However, those of German and English heritage seem to be highly prone to rosacea as well. Forty-one percent of patients responding to the survey reported they had some German ancestry, compared to 15% of the U.S. population, and more than 30%reported English ancestry, versus 9% reporting English ancestry in the national census.
Other nationalities in which rosacea was present at a higher rate than the ethnicity is represented in the U.S. population include Scandinavian, Scottish, French, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, Hungarian and Czech.
Although little was known about rosacea years ago, some of the survey respondents could trace the condition back more than one generation. Nearly 16% reported one of their grandmothers had rosacea, while 14% noted that their grandfather was affected.
The facial disorder may be targeting the next generation as well, since nearly 15% of the respondents reported one or more of their children have been diagnosed with rosacea. Many also indicated that an aunt, uncle or cousin had been diagnosed with the condition, too.
"Especially as rosacea becomes more widely known, it is increasingly evident that heredity may be a significant factor," said Boni Elewski, MD, vice chairman of dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Anyone who has a relative with rosacea would be wise to keep an eye out for the early warning signs of the disorder--and to see a dermatologist as soon as they appear."
Rosacea typically first appears as a redness or flushing 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 may develop, and in severe cases, particularly in men, the nose may grow swollen and bumpy from excess tissue. In many people, the eyes are also affected, feeling irritated and appearing watery or bloodshot.
Fortunately, the signs and symptoms of rosacea can be effectively controlled with medical treatment and lifestyle changes. Anyone who suspects they may have rosacea is urged to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and appropriate therapy.
For information and educational materials on rosacea, write the National Rosacea Society, 800 S. Northwest Highway, Suite 200, Barrington, Illinois 60010, or call its toll-free number at 888-NO-BLUSH. Information and materials are also available on the society's Web site at www.rosacea.org.