Is it acne or rosacea?

Acne and acne rosacea are two different skin conditions that can share some similar symptoms, which can make it difficult to differentiate between them. ‘Acne is a common skin condition that is characterized by the formation of inflammatory spots, blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of lesions on the face, chest, and back such as nodules,’ describes Dermatologist Dr Nicola Ralph. ‘Rosacea, on the other hand, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that primarily affects the face and is characterized by persistent redness, flushing, and the appearance of small, red, pus-filled bumps predominately affecting the central face.’  

There are some key differences between acne and rosacea that can help doctors make a diagnosis. Some of these differences include:  

Age of onset: Acne typically develops during puberty, while rosacea more commonly develops in adults over 30-40.  

Location of lesions: Acne lesions can occur on the face, chest, and back, while rosacea primarily affects the central face, including the nose, cheeks, and forehead.  

Type of lesions: Acne lesions can include blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts, while rosacea is characterized by small, red, pus-filled bumps known as papules/pustules.  

Presence of other symptoms: Rosacea may be accompanied by symptoms such as facial flushing, burning, and stinging, while these symptoms are not typically associated with acne.  

Triggers: Rosacea can be triggered by factors such as sun exposure, hot weather, spicy foods, and alcohol, while acne is not typically triggered by these factors.  

‘In some cases, the diagnosis of acne or rosacea may be straightforward based on clinical presentation and other factors. However, in some cases, the two conditions can coexist, which can make diagnosis more challenging,’ Nicola continues. ‘A doctor may need to take a detailed medical history, perform a physical examination, and consider factors such as age of onset, location of lesions, and other symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis.’  

If you suspect you have acne or rosacea, please visit your GP or dermatologist, who will be able to make a professional assessment of your skin.   

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