Have you ever heard of rosacea?

While researchers continue to make progress in understanding the disease process of rosacea, lack of public awareness of the disorder remains a stumbling block to its control. The National Rosacea Society (NRS) has designated April as Rosacea Awareness Month to educate the public on the warning signs of this chronic and widespread facial condition, now estimated to affect more than 16 million Americans.

In a recent NRS survey of 1,459 rosacea patients, 45 percent said they had never hear of rosacea prior to their diagnosis, and 95 percent said they had known little or nothing about its signs and symptoms.

“Researchers are now making steady progress in defining potential causes of the disorder, which may lead to significant advances in its treatment and care,” said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of dermatology at the University of California – San Diego and a member of the NRS Medical Advisory Board.

Although the cause of rosacea is unknown, medical research has substantially increased as the NRS has awarded $1.4 million to fund 56 studies through its research grants program. The range of possible causes under investigation includes defects in the immune system, the nervous system and facial blood vessels, genetics, and the presence of Demodex mites.

Although rosacea varies from one patient to another, the standard subtypes of rosacea reflect the most common patterns of signs and symptoms, and characteristics of more than one subtype may occur at the same time.

Subtype 1 rosacea is characterized by flushing and persistent redness on the central portion of the face, while subtype 2 rosacea also features papules and pustules. Subtype 3 rosacea includes thickening of the skin, irregular nodularities and enlargement, especially of the nose. Subtype 4 is ocular rosacea, where the eyes may have a watery or bloodshot appearance, the sensation of a foreign body, burning or stinging, dryness, itching, light sensitivity and other signs and symptoms.

During April and throughout the year, individuals may call the National Rosacea Society’s toll-free telephone number at 1-888-NO-BLUSH (1-888-662-5874) or visit the NRS website at rosacea.org for more information.