Rosacea is more than skin deep, and it affects people in a much more significant way than its most obvious symptom (inflamed skin of the face) might suggest. But is it actually an autoimmune condition?
So what is rosacea? Whether or not it’s an autoimmune condition, it’s certainly an inflammatory disorder, which causes a body to react disproportionately in response to stimuli, such as irritants, hormones, environmental changes etc. This extreme inflammatory response leads to dilated veins, flushed skin, swelling, itching, eruptions and heat: the inflamed face that characterises rosacea.
Recently, studies have suggested that rosacea has connections with Type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, all of which are autoimmune diseases. What this means in practice is that rosacea sufferers are more likely than members of the general public to have these other conditions as well as rosacea, though what the exact connection is remains unclear.
There are also associations between rosacea and other illnesses: gastrointestinal, neurological and cardiovascular conditions, which can also involve inflammatory responses.
Associations, but not clear-cut causes. No one can yet say that rosacea causes any those conditions, or that autoimmune conditions cause rosacea, just that they co-exist in a significant number of sufferers. So while the jury is out on whether rosacea itself can be seen as an autoimmune disease, it certainly seems to have a connection with autoimmune conditions.
One autoimmune condition that has a connection with rosacea, in that it also sometimes manifests with a flushed rash on the face, is lupus. Read our blog Is Rosacea A Sign Of Lupus? for more details about how the two conditions differ, and why they're sometimes mistaken for each other.
It’s worth noting that the associations were most obvious in women: in one Danish study women with rosacea were more likely to have an autoimmune disease (1.65 times more likely to have multiple sclerosis (MS), 2.03 times more likely to have celiac disease, 2.14 times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and 2.59 times more likely to have type 1 diabetes than women who didn’t have rosacea).
Furthermore, it’s unclear whether the association is due to genetic factors, or environmental ones; do women who are prone to rosacea also inherit the tendency that would make them more likely to develop diabetes, or it is something else? And do some subtypes of rosacea have stronger connections with autoimmune diseases than others?
Obviously while a lot more research is needed into the subject, one thing is clear: it’s sensible for rosacea sufferers to be aware of the possibility that they might develop a further condition, and for their doctors to take extra care in checking for further symptoms.
For more information about rosacea and how to manage it, see our blog on Rosacea Awareness.
Recommended products for rosacea-prone skin:
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula
Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash
with calendula & chamomile