Rosacea

Birthmarks are abnormal skin discolorations in spots that are either present at birth or appear shortly thereafter. They can be flat or slightly raised from the skin. They can be any number of colors, including red, brown, black, tan, pink, white or purple. Birthmarks are generally harmless. There are two major categories of birthmarks: pigmented birthmarks and red birthmarks.

Pigmented Birthmarks can grow anywhere on the skin and at any time. They are usually black, brown or skin-colored and appear singly or in groups. They can be moles (congenital nevi) that are present at birth, Mongolian spots, which look like bluish bruises and appear more frequently on people with dark skin, or café-au-lait spots that are flat, light brown or tan and roughly form an oval shape.

Red Birthmarks (also known as macular stains) develop before or shortly after birth and are related to the vascular (blood vessel) system. There are a number of different types:

  • Angel kisses, which usually appear on the forehead and eyelids.
  • Stork bites, which appear on the back of the neck, between the eyebrows on the forehead, or on eyelids of newborns. They may fade away as the child grows, but often persist into adulthood.
  • Port-wine stains, which are flat deep-red or purple birthmarks made up of dilated blood capillaries (small blood vessels). They often appear on the face and are permanent.
  • Strawberry hemangiomas, composed of small, closely packed blood vessels that grow rapidly and can appear anywhere on the body. They usually disappear by age nine.
  • Cavernous hemangiomas are similar to strawberry hemangiomas but go more deeply into the layers of the skin. These can often be characterized by a bluish-purple color. They also tend to disappear naturally around school age.

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Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes facial redness, acne-like pimples, visible small blood vessels on the face, swelling and/or watery, irritated eyes. This inflammation of the face can affect the cheeks, nose, chin, forehead or eyelids. More than 14 million Americans suffer from rosacea. It is not contagious, but there is some evidence to suggest that it is inherited. There is no known cause or cure for rosacea. There is also no link between rosacea and cancer.

Rosacea generally begins after age 30 and goes through cycles of flare-ups and remissions. Over time, it gets ruddier in color and small blood vessels (like spider veins) may appear on the face. If left untreated, bumps and pimples may form, the end of the nose may become swollen, red and bulbous and eyes may water or become irritated.

Rosacea occurs most often among people with fair skin who tend to blush or flush easily. It occurs more often among women than men, but men tend to suffer from more severe symptoms. Most patients experience multiple symptoms at varying levels of severity. Common symptoms include:

  • flushing
  • persistently red skin on the face
  • bumps or acne-like pimples
  • visible blood vessels on facial skin
  • watery or irritated eyes
  • burning, itching or stinging of facial skin
  • skin roughness and dryness
  • raised red patches
  • swelling (edema)

These symptoms may also appear on the neck, chest, scalp and ears.

Research conducted by the National Rosacea Foundation found that the leading triggers for rosacea are:

  • sun exposure
  • hot or cold weather
  • emotional stress
  • wind
  • alcohol
  • heavy exercise
  • spicy foods
  • hot baths
  • heated beverages
  • some skin care products
  • humidity
  • indoor heat

While there is no cure for rosacea and each case is unique, your doctor will probably prescribe oral antibiotics and topical medications to reduce the severity of the symptoms. When the condition goes into remission, only topical treatments may be needed. In more severe cases, a vascular laser, intense pulsed light source or other medical device may be used to remove any visible blood vessels and reduce excess redness and bumpiness on the nose.

To help reduce the incidence of flare-ups, a gentle daily skin care routine is recommended that includes the use of mild, non-abrasive cleansers, soft cloths, rinsing in lukewarm water (not hot or cold), and blotting the face dry (not rubbing). Additionally, individuals with rosacea need to protect themselves from sun exposure by using sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher and sunblocks that eliminate UVA and UVB rays. Patients are also encouraged to keep a record of flare-ups to try and determine the lifestyle and environmental triggers that aggravate the condition.