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Living with rosacea? How to reduce your risk of other conditions

Having rosacea may increase your risk of developing other diseases. That’s according to findings from several studies. These diseases include diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and migraine headaches.

Although studies have found an increased risk of developing some diseases, dermatologists caution that many people who have rosacea never develop any of these diseases. Before we can say with certainty that rosacea increases the risk of getting these diseases, more research is needed.

Until then, it can be helpful to know:

  • How researchers found these risks

  • What you can do to reduce your risk of getting another disease

How researchers found these risks

These research studies were conducted by looking at medical records. In looking at the records, researchers discovered that patients with rosacea were more likely to be diagnosed with certain diseases than patients who did not have rosacea.

What the medical records could not tell the researchers is whether the patients who had rosacea and another disease also made some unhealthy lifestyle choices.

It’s possible that their lifestyle choices rather than the rosacea increased their risk of developing other disease. For example, did the patients with rosacea who developed another disease eat an unhealthy diet? Were they getting little or no exercise?

The studies also could not tell us whether the rosacea itself caused patients to develop other diseases.

Until we know more, dermatologists recommend the following.

What you can do to reduce your risk of getting another disease

While unhealthy lifestyle choices can increase your risk of developing another disease, healthy lifestyle choices can reduce that risk.

Here are 10 lifestyle choices that dermatologists recommend.

  1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), people who have a healthy, balanced diet primarily eat fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, legumes (includes beans and nuts), and lean proteins. They limit foods and beverages that contain added sugar, saturated fat, or sodium.

    How it helps: Good nutrition can help prevent diseases linked to rosacea, including diabetes and heart disease.

  2. Maintain a healthy weight. To do this, you follow these steps:

    • Find out what weight is healthy for you. To get an estimate, you can use the BMI calculator.

    • Eat a healthy balanced diet, eating just the right amount to get to (or stay at) your healthy weight. You’ll learn what makes a meal healthy at Healthy Eating Plans.

    • Stay at your healthy weight. Advice for doing this is given at Maintain a Healthy Weight for Life.

    How it helps: Being overweight increases your risk of developing many diseases linked to rosacea, including diabetes and heart disease.

  3. Exercise on most days of the week. Working out when you have rosacea can be a challenge. As you exercise, the redness on your face can become intense. After your workout, the redness can linger.

    With a bit of planning, you can limit flare-ups due to exercise. To reduce the redness, you can:

    • Drink plenty of cool water during your workout

    • Work out in a cool place

    • Decrease the intensity of your workout

    How it helps: Exercise can reduce your risk of developing many diseases linked to rosacea, including diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and depression. It can also help you lose weight.

  4. If you smoke, stop. Quitting smoking can add years to your life. In one small study, researchers also discovered that some people who have rosacea find that cigarette smoke can cause their face to sting and burn.

    How it helps: Stopping smoking greatly decreases your risk of developing diseases linked to rosacea, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

  5. Limit how much alcohol you drink. Drinking can lead to health problems. To reduce this risk, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines states that women should have no more than 1 drink a day and men 2 drinks per day.

    How it helps: Drinking more than the amount indicated (1 drink per day if you’re a woman and 2 drinks per day if you’re a man) increases your risk of developing many diseases linked to rosacea, including heart disease, dementia, and diabetes.

  6. Reduce stress. Everyone feels stressed from time to time. If you feel that you’re constantly on edge, learning how to manage your stress can help you feel better. Exercising, meditating, and eliminating caffeine are just a few techniques that people use to reduce stress. The important thing is to find what works for you.

    How it helps: Stress is linked to many diseases. Another benefit of reducing stress is that if stress triggers your rosacea, learning how to manage stress can also help reduce rosacea flare-ups.

  7. Reduce stress

    A survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society revealed that 3/4s of the respondents said that they were able to decrease flare-ups by managing their stress.

    stressed woman biting lip

  8. Treat your rosacea. Researchers also discovered that the people who had the most severe rosacea were more likely to have another disease. For example, researchers who looked at the link between rosacea and depression discovered that the people who had the most severe rosacea had more severe depression.

    How it helps: Treating your rosacea can reduce its severity. Treatment can also prevent the rosacea from worsening. Because rosacea is caused by inflammation as are many other diseases, it’s possible that controlling rosacea could reduce the risk of developing other diseases. More research is needed to know for sure.

  9. See your primary care doctor for check-ups as often as recommended. Some risk factors, such as high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels, for diseases linked to rosacea can be found during a check-up. If you have any of these risk factors, your primary care doctor can tell you.

    How it helps: Having healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, having a stroke, and getting diabetes.

  10. Be aware of changes to your body. Early signs and symptoms of disease can be barely noticeable. Paying close attention to changes in your body can help you recognize them.

    You also want to look for changes to your skin. The following warning signs show you how to do this for three diseases that may be linked to rosacea:

    How it helps: Finding a disease early can help you manage it and prevent complications.

  11. Discuss your concerns with your board-certified dermatologist and primary care doctor. Learning that rosacea could increase your risk of developing other diseases may feel unsettling. By discussing your concerns with your dermatologist and primary care doctor, you can get insight into your own unique risks.

    How it helps: Knowing your risks can help you take action.

  12. Taking good care of yourself has many benefits

    As you have just seen, making healthy choices can reduce your risk of developing diseases linked to rosacea. Healthy lifestyle choices can also help you feel better, have more energy, and improve your overall health.

    Getty Images

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol and public health, Fact sheet: Moderate drinking.” Last accessed October 31, 2018.

    Egeberg A, Ashina M, et al. “Prevalence and risk of migraine in patients with rosacea: A population-based cohort study.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;76(3):454-8.

    Egeberg A, Hansen PR, et al. “Assessment of the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with rosacea.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;75(2):336-9.

    Gallo RL, Granstein RD, et al. “Rosacea comorbidities and future research: The 2017 update by the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018;78(1):167-70.

    Haber R, El Gemayel M. “Comorbidities in rosacea: A systematic review and update.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018;78(4):786-792.e8.

    Holmes AD, Spoendlin J, et al. “Evidence-based update on rosacea comorbidities and their common physiologic pathways.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018;78(1):156-66.

    Hossein A, Cardwell LA, et al. “Screening for depression in rosacea patients.” Cutis. 2018;102(1):36-8.

    Kim M, Choi KH, et al. “Inflammatory bowel disease is associated with an increased risk of inflammatory skin diseases: A population-based cross-sectional study.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;76(1):40-8.

    Li S, Cho E, et al. “Obesity and risk for incident rosacea in US women.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;77(6):1083-7.e5.

    National Rosacea Society:

    • “Calm yourself down and your skin may calm with you, research shows.” News release issued Fall 2014. Last accessed October 31, 2018. 

    • “Scientists trace rosacea triggers to discover sources of symptoms.” Rosacea Review. Summer 2008. Last accessed October 31, 2018.

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Nutrition and health are closely related.” Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. Last accessed October 31, 2018.

    Wu CY, Chang YT, et al. “Risk of inflammatory bowel disease in patients with rosacea: Results from a nationwide cohort study in Taiwan.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;76(5):911-7.