An introduction to the causes of rosacea
There is no obvious single cause of rosacea.
Rosacea has previously been linked to abnormalities in the circulatory system mainly because of the rapid dilation of blood vessels triggering symptoms such as redness in the face, pimples or plaques.1 It is also speculated that the cause of rosacea might be linked to your genetics as the condition can run in families.
Research has suggested a possible connection between rosacea and infestation by the demodex mite, implying that the mite could be responsible for triggering symptoms by causing facial irritation.2 It has also been suspected that the Helicobacter pylori strain of bacteria, normally found in the digestive tract, might trigger an increase in the protein bradykinin, which can cause your blood vessels to dilate or expand.
Genetics appear to play a role in rosacea as the condition can be seen with several members in one family. This implies that some people may be more predisposed to rosacea than others, rather than the illness being brought on by external factors.
The immune system is extremely important when it comes to protecting your body against potential pathogens.
In a study conducted by leading dermatologist Dr. Richard Gallo, it was theorised that rosacea could be caused by an innate flaw in your immune system.
It was suggested that an absence of microflora, microorganisms that inhabit your skin, could be responsible for lowering your immunity to certain skin conditions.3
Digestion appears to be very important when it comes to rosacea. A diet rich in inflammatory foods such as refined sugars, caffeine or alcohol, can have a negative effect on the digestive process, triggering the condition.
In addition, foods such as curries, chillies or horseradish can aggravate rosacea symptoms, probably because spicy foods cause blood vessels to dilate. Studies have shown that two thirds of sufferers found that symptoms became more acute after imbibing alcohol.4
One explanation is that alcohol can dilate blood vessels but in addition, certain drinks have properties that stimulate the production of histamine, further aggravating rosacea symptoms. Other beverages such as caffeinated drinks are capable of triggering an excess of histamine in your system and should also be treated with caution.
Stress can take a toll on the immune system, often stimulating the primordial ‘flight or fight’ reaction.
When this happens, your body experiences a rush of adrenalin, causing some blood vessels to dilate, worsening any rosacea symptoms that you might be experiencing.
Experiencing emotional distress can also have an impact on your digestion. This is again linked to the ‘fight or flight’ reflexes, stimulated by your sympathetic nervous system. The nervous system believes that you are in a life-threatening situation and so your digestion is disrupted as this function is not a priority and may distract you in a fight.
This is why stress is often accompanied by bouts of constipation or diarrhoea, which can then increase the population of bad bacteria in your gut, affecting levels of bradykinin, a substance that dilates or widens blood vessels.
What you put on your skin can exacerbate the symptoms of rosacea.
Skin care products that contain fragrances or alcohol are particularly to blame when it comes to stimulating a reaction as from these chemicals as they are too harsh and unforgiving on sensitive, rosacea prone skin.
If you suffer from rosacea it might be worthwhile looking at any medication you might be taking.
Medicines such as steroids, beta-blockers, certain antibiotics and painkillers, as well as some blood pressure medicines are known to trigger an outbreak of rosacea, particularly if they cause blood vessels to dilate.
Extremes of temperature can trigger an episode of rosacea. When the climate is too hot or too cold, you are exposed to low humidity, wind and sunlight, which can dry and irritate your skin, prompting a surge of rosacea symptoms.
The National Society of Rosacea reported that out of 1066 rosacea sufferers, 81% found that the sun was a primary trigger of symptoms.5
The harsh effects of UV light upon your skin are well documented; it can damage and overheat your skin cells and cause your blood vessels to dilate, stimulating rosacea symptoms such as facial redness.
During menopause, women tend to experience hot flushes, and this can raise the temperature of the body as well as causing the blood vessels to dilate, triggering an episode of rosacea.
Lastly, excessive or vigorous physical activity can aggravate rosacea symptoms.
This is because exercise increases body temperature, making you more susceptible to symptoms such as flushing, erythema or facial heat.
Exercise can also inhibit the release of adrenalin into your immune system, inflaming and irritating our symptoms, often triggering a reaction in your skin.