DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Over the past few months the skin on my cheeks has become slightly red, and I have what looks like acne on my cheeks. Could this be rosacea, and if so, is there a way to treat it?
ANSWER: Changes such as the ones you describe may indicate rosacea, a common inflammatory skin condition. An estimated 14 million Americans have rosacea, which can be mistaken for other skin disorders, such as acne and skin allergies. The good news is that the pimple-like bumps of rosacea generally respond well to prescribed treatment and to efforts to avoid triggers that can aggravate the condition.
Although anyone can develop rosacea, it’s more likely to occur in people with fair skin and light eye and hair color. The condition typically appears between ages 30 and 60. Women are more likely than men to develop rosacea. However, it tends to be more severe in men. Its cause is unknown, but researchers believe rosacea is likely due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.
Rosacea can begin with a tendency for facial flushing. But when that’s the only sign and nothing further develops on your face, it may not be rosacea. Some people have a naturally ruddy complexion or chronic sun damage, which may give the appearance of rosacea.
Generally, signs and symptoms of rosacea are progressive. Persistent red areas may develop on the center area of your face — especially the nose — due to expanding (dilating) blood vessels close to the skin’s surface. With time, small blood vessels on the nose and cheeks may swell and become more visible. Skin tends to be overly sensitive — for some, oily skin and dandruff are part of the mix. The inflammatory phase of rosacea is marked by the appearance of small red bumps or pustules, which aren’t the same as whiteheads or blackheads associated with acne.