Research into Rosacea

In recognition of the fact that April is Rosacea Awareness Month, it seemed appropriate to talk a little about some of the recent research into the causes of rosacea, which will hopefully, in turn, lead to better treatments and prevention.

Honing in on one specific cause of rosacea may be impossible, however, researchers are now uncovering some promising theories and doing further studies to help solidify what they have found thus far.

The results of some of the research being done points to the following causes:

  • Blood vessel disorder
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Demodex folliculorum (skin mites)
  • pH balance
  • Cathelicidins

The theory behind the blood vessel disorder is that pimples and/or the tissue growth associated with phymatous rosacea is instigated by the fluid built up in blood vessels, causing them to expand. This fluid can set off inflammation. Structural abnormalities have been noted in the blood vessels of rosacea patients studied.

A lot of attention is being given to the study of Demodex folliculorum…skin mites…as another very viable cause of rosacea. It is a little disconcerting to think about mites living on our skin, but it is a reality that researchers believe makes rosacea a struggle for many. The diet of these mites consists of dead skin cells. The mites make their homes in our hair follicles on our bodies, preferably our faces. When studying the skin samples taken from those suffering from rosacea, researchers recently found the skin mite population of the study group to be much higher than those without rosacea.

As we recently discussed in a blog about acne, when sebaceous glands get clogged with oil and dead skin, inflammation (pimples) can occur. This reaction can also be caused by hair follicles clogged by skin mites. One study conducted by researchers in Ireland found that bacteria carried by the skin mites caused adverse reactions in rosacea patients and not in those who did not suffer with rosacea.

Another condition that can contribute to outbreaks of rosacea is the pH of the skin. A higher acidic pH aggravates rosacea. A couple of the things that can affect the acidity of the skin are the foods you eat, what you drink, and the amount of stress you are experiencing. Commonly known foods and drinks that can affect rosacea are those that are spicy (hot) and red wine. A more complete list is provided here.

Finally, on our list are cathelicidins, molecules that are a part of our bodies’ normal bacteria-fighting immune system. Our bodies routinely will call on cathelicidins to help in response to “dangers” that are sensed, such as spicy foods, stress, and high heat. A study by Dr. Richard Gallo from the University of California-San Diego helped to determine that the makeup of cathelicidins in rosacea patients is different and more abundant. According to the research, an additional enzyme, kallikrein, is present in large amounts, which stimulates the cathelicidin unnecessarily, causing skin inflammation. One therapy being looked at involves bringing cathelicidin levels into a normal range through the use of Vitamin D.

Although rosacea is a condition that can have life-long negative affects on patients’ lives, the research that is being done is promising in that, along with certain lifestyle changes, there may be new and better therapies on the horizon.

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