W.C. Fields was awfully funny but not necessarily the best-looking dude, due in large part to his big, red, bulbous nose, caused by rhinophyma, a buildup of tissue caused by untreated rosacea.
Rosacea is red, bumpy skin that usually appears on the face but sometimes on the ears and chest as well. It is characterized by flare-ups and remissions.
Here's a shocker: rosacea affects more women than men. (Man, am I sick of writing that.) Men, however, often suffer far more severe symptoms.
This disorder can be extremely painful and itchy and cause facial edema. In some people, the eyelids may become red and swollen, and without medical help severe cases can result in corneal damage.
There is no cure, and the cause is unknown, though sun exposure and stress are triggers.
There are, of course, treatments and theories.
what the experts say
"A lot of patients with rosacea have a reduced digestive capacity and low stomach acid production, called hypochlorhydria. There is sometimes an H. pylori infection, too, which thrives in low gastric acid conditions. Increasing gastric acid secretion can be helpful. That can be done either through direct supplementation of hydrochloric acid or stimulating its production with herbs or by taking apple cider vinegar before meals. Some people with rosacea might have food allergies or sensitivities. B vitamins are really helpful, especially riboflavin and B12. Avoid B complexes with niacin, because that can cause a flush on its own. Stress can reduce digestive function and produce neurological effects that will dilate the blood vessels of the skin."
MITCHELL ZEIFMAN, naturopath, Toronto
"I have had really good results from a combination of chickweed, comfrey and plantain leaves. These are anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial and can either be used in the form of an herbal spray or wash or in a topical salve. Make a strong tea, strain it, then sponge or wash on the area. A salve can be made from a combination of olive oil, beeswax and the herbs. Also, get enough essential fatty acids from good-quality fish oil, hemp seed oil or flax seed oil. Don't over-wash with detergents or soap. Use natural soap and a gentle moisturizer."
CELINA AINSWORTH, herbalist, Toronto
"Recent research has discovered a new class of antimicrobial peptides found to be elevated in patients with rosacea. So the question is what is causing these? Is it a reaction to some infection? One study shows that lasers or light can reduce their levels, as can certain antibiotics. The redness requires pulse light or lasers . If this is done aggressively, however, it can make it worse. Treating patients conservatively can make a dramatic improvement. See a dermatologist, not just a technician. And topical products, natural or unnatural, can make it worse. A lot of people with rosacea can't use anything. Some who think they have rosacea don't. Their skin is irritated by the products they're using. They might have seborrhea, ordinary dandruff that affects the nose, eyebrows and mouth. Sometimes they have perioral dermatitis."
HOWARD JAY, dermatologist, New York City
"Rosacea is attributed to excess heat, or pitta, in your skin and bloodstream. Coconut oil is cooling internally and externally. You can add it to food or cook with it. A sandalwood paste that can be put on the forehead for cooling the mind is also excellent. Emotionally, those with excess pitta put a lot of pressure on themselves. Don't eat spicy foods or anything that will raise your heart rate. A pancha karma treatment in which you take mildly laxative herbs is also recommended."
KRISTEN MA, ayurvedic practitioner, Toronto