Health Watch -- Not a Sunburn

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Your red face may not be a sunburn or a blush.

Red, flushed skin on the face may not be caused by sunburn, and pimples may not be acne. Those are possible symptoms of another skin disorder: rosacea.

Rosacea is a chronic skin disorder that affects about 13 million Americans. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say this condition is often mistaken for a sunburn, complexion change or acne. Symptoms of rosacea include redness that looks like flushing on the face, broken blood vessels and pustules that look like pimples on the nose, cheeks or chin.

Because rosacea symptoms look so much like other common skin problems like sunburn or acne, many people don't recognize the symptoms in the earliest stages, and that means they may not get the treatment they need.

Dr. Gene Jones, who trains physician assistants at UT Southwestern, says there isn't a cure for rosacea, but the symptoms can be managed. A doctor can prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to minimize the symptoms. You can also prevent flare-ups by learning to recognize and avoid things that tend to trigger rosacea.

Some common triggers include spicy foods, alcohol, sun exposure and strenuous exercise.

If the sunburn on your face doesn't fade and if it comes with pimples, or if it gets worse when you've been exposed to those rosacea triggers, talk to your doctor.


Aug. 2004

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