His bulbous nose became about as much a signature characteristic of actor W.C. Fields as his comedic talent. It was an unfunny condition called rosacea that caused his nose to become red and swollen — the condition wasn't adult acne, though that misdiagnosis is sometimes made, and it wasn't caused by excessive drinking, either.
What does cause rosacea, with its tell-tale flushing-type redness, lumps that resemble pimples and red lines where blood vessels have enlarged, is a less certain matter entirely. Bacteria, mites and fungi have all been blamed at different times, and other theories have focused on a malfunction of the skin's connective tissues.
Whatever its cause, rosacea tends to worsen if left untreated. Topical and oral antibiotics might help manage the problem, and inflammation-reducing topical steroids can supplement the regimen. MetroGel and MetroCream are among the few doctor-prescribed treatments, according to dermatologist Tina West, M.D.
Beyond trying these prescription treatments, try wearing green-tinted makeup to mask the redness. As for prevention, avoiding things that make the face flushed is the best form, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The AAD's suggested steps to control the symptoms:
- Practice sound skin care. Avoid harsh cleansers and makeup, which can irritate your skin and bring out the redness. Alcohol is a common culprit in cosmetics. Also, apply skin care products carefully, and don't rub your face — that can further irritate your blemish-prone skin.
- Stay cool. Avoid overheating — that includes while exercising or showering — and don't expose to yourself to extremely cold temperatures, either.
- Stay covered in the sun. Protect yourself from the sun — by wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and wearing protective clothing.
- Avoid known aggravators. Spicy foods, caffeine and alcoholic and hot drinks are among the common culprits, as they can up the blood flow to the face, so stay away from them.
- Take note of your own triggers. Some people react to red wine, and other people get flushed in response to other foods, products, activities or medications.
More on Rosacea Treatments: Beyond the Basics
Modern medicine offers new ways to reduce the redness of rosacea. Using a small electric needle or laser surgery, doctors can close off dilated blood vessels to reduce redness. Insurance often covers these sorts of surgeries, at least in part, points out dermatologist West.
For the rhinophyma, or enlarged red nose and puffy cheeks that affected W.C. Fields and is common in advanced cases of rosacea, treatment tactics include surgery with a scalpel or laser and electrosurgery (the application of electrical current to body tissue). Discuss these options with a dermatologist you trust.
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