The wisecracking Depression-era actor W.C. Fields was known for his unique look and comical catchphrases, like “Never give a sucker an even break.” The actor adopted a costume of a wheat-straw or top hat, bow tie, and a distinct bulbous red nose. But that red-nose wasn’t from excessive alcohol consumption, but a common skin condition called rosacea. Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that usually affects the face. People may mistake rosacea for acne, eczema, or an allergic skin reaction. That causes the skin to flush with small, red bumps on the face. If left untreated it could develop into rhinophyma. This afflicted Fields later in his life – and has been inaccurately linked with alcoholism. W.C. Fields’ hard-drinking persona may have contributed to that misperception – which is incorrect and can further distress patients with rhinophyma. In addition to the emotional and psychological burden of rhinophyma, if left unaddressed, it can interfere with breathing.
How Rhinophyma Starts
According to the not-for-profit National Rosacea Society, about 16 million people in the United States suffer from rosacea, a chronic skin condition that typically starts as occasional facial flushing but can progress to permanently reddened and damaged skin. In case you’re diagnosed with rosacea, give close consideration and attention to your skin. In the event that you notice firm, rounded bumps or thickening of the skin on your face, it’s an ideal opportunity to see a dermatologist. These progressions generally occur on the nose. You may likewise see them on your jaw, temple, eyelids, or one of the two ears.
Overall, most rosacea patients are adult women. But with rhinophyma, far more men are affected. Left untreated, those afflicted with rosacea can face serious challenges. The National Rosacea Society reports that seventy percent say the condition negatively impacts their personal and professional lives, contributing to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Successfully Treating Rhinophyma:
Rhinophyma responds well to treatment. And the sooner patients start, the more quickly they can reclaim their appearance, control symptoms – and prevent rosacea from disrupting their lives.
- Get a clear diagnosis: Rhinophyma is a more advanced form of rosacea, appearing after earlier symptoms, so patients may already have a diagnosis. That said, it’s important that the skin be evaluated for other conditions, including skin cancer, which can co-occur in the affected area.
- Get treatment: Early intervention can slow rhinophyma and minimize its appearance. This can reduce the need for more extensive treatment to remove excess skin and reshape the nose.
- Using medications and surgery: Once the skin has become thicker, only removal can reduce it. Depending on the extent, dermatologists can remove excess skin with different surgical techniques, including lasers. Medications, in particular isotretinoin, can play an important role in slowing ongoing thickening and may be prescribed after surgery to help block reoccurrence. With isotretinoin, it’s important patients fully understand potentially serious side effects so they can make an informed decision.
- Stick with post-treatment “musts”: Number one? Always avoid the sun: SPF 30, protective clothing, seeking shade. Next? ID your triggers: Possibilities include temperature extremes, spicy foods, hot beverages, alcohol, certain medications, stress, health, and beauty products. These can all spark flares that contribute to reoccurrence. The National Rosacea Society’s website has a diary booklet patients can use to record exposures and identify those they are susceptible to. Your skin specialist can help you evaluate your individual triggers.
- Avoid aggravating your condition: Your dermatologist can help you choose health and beauty products that avoid “trigger” ingredients like menthol, camphor, or sodium lauryl sulfate, as well as provide guidance in following a careful skincare routine: Cleansing is important, but it must be gentle. And moisturizing is a must, with a “friendly” cream that steers clear of irritants.
image used with the permission of artist Rocky Sawyer