Let’s carry on from where we left off and look at more factors thought to cause rosacea. I know, there’s a lot.
The Nervous System
The rosy face of the condition regularly goes cheek by jowl with burning and stinging, which may be signs of nerve stimulation. This could mark a malfunction in contact between the nerves and the vascular system.
In a study of rosacea patients, it was discovered that a great percentage had neurologic (relating to the nervous system) conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s or neuropsychiatric (mental disorders attributable to diseases of the nervous system) conditions such as depression, headache and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
People with rosacea also show a higher nerve, blood vessel and sweating response than people without the condition when subject to extended stress or heat.
This may suggest that rosacea symptoms are in part because of nerve overactivity. The greater responses in rosacea patients occurred in the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the body’s autonomic nervous system that controls involuntary functions such as heart rate, digestion, breathing and perspiration. This portion of the autonomic nervous system functions largely below the level of consciousness and has been shown to respond to emotion. Yet another indication that stress plays a big factor in the condition of skin.
Inflammation and skin problems are closely associated. Inflammation is the body’s counter attack to foreign hazards like stress, infection, and toxic chemicals. If the immune system suspects any of these threats, it responds by triggering proteins which are there to protect tissues and cells.
This type of catastrophic, sustained inflammation can have different causes, including an autoimmune disorder, a bacteria or virus, fatty and sugary foods, or the way you deal with stress and anxiety. Inflammation is definitely harmful and chronic inflammation is thought to be, by some, as the basis of all sorts of degenerative diseases.
Another consideration thought perhaps to affect inflammation is gut dysbiosis, aka leaky gut, which causes an imbalance in the gut flora. This is when tight intersections in the gut, which restrict what passes through the lining of the small intestine, don’t function correctly. This sometimes leads to substances leaking into the bloodstream which could perhaps contribute to skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea, as well as other conditions, mentioned in part one, like MS, lupus, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. The theory is that because the skin is the largest organ in the body and through it the body releases toxins and other products of metabolism, if these products are very poisonous, as they would be when there is an imbalance in the gut flora, the skin will experience adversity as it tries to purge itself of those toxic elements.
Another gut related theory is to do with something called Helicobacter pylori, which is a microaerophilic bacterium, regularly found in the stomach. This bacterium doesn’t cause most people any problems, though it can increase the risk of ulcers and indigestion in some and it stimulates the production of bradykinin, a protein known to cause blood vessels to dilate. However, more than 50% of the world’s population have H. Pylori in their stomachs, but more than 50% of the world’s population do not have rosacea. In a study though, patients who were successfully treated for H. Pylori found that their rosacea went into remission. Again, not terribly conclusive. It’s confusing, isn’t it?
Scientists also think that the gut can contribute towards depression and anxiety, as well as affecting autoimmune diseases and skin problems. It all seems to be linked!
Blood Vessel Abnormalities
Some dermatologists conceive that abnormalities in the blood vessels of the face may be a considerable causal factor for rosacea. This may explain the manifestation of persistent redness, flushing and visible blood vessels. However, no one knows what causes these anomalies. It’s thought that deterioration of skin collagen by sunlight may be to blame for the expansion of skin vessels which leads to inflammation, thread veins and redness. Yet this theory still remains a mystery. Crikey, are there any answers?
Demodex is the name given to microscopic mites that normally inhabit the pores of the skin. They’re too tiny to see with the naked eye and they live harmlessly on most people. Noice! People with rosacea have an above average quantity of these mites on their skin than those without. It could be that this larger amount of mites may lead to or worsen the condition. Apparently having a suppressed immune system can cause the mite population to increase and get out of control. There’s that pesky immune system again.
The other theory is that it isn’t the actual number of mites, but rather the bacteria released when they die that causes rosacea. Eeeeeeugh! Supposedly, bacteria from the Demodex mites trigger inflammatory cells in rosacea. Also, rosacea is inclined to worsen during heat and humidity, conditions in which these mites flourish.
Basically, it’s not known whether the mites cause the rosacea, or whether the rosacea causes the overpopulation of the mites.
Right, so it could be blimmin’ anything and everything!
Though it does seem to come back to the fact that everything’s connected and it’s a bit of a vicious circle. Stress leads to inflammation, inflammation increases the population of Demodex mites and is made worse by a leaky gut, which can make your skin break out, which causes you more stress, which makes you comfort eat crap, which affects your gut… And so on and so forth. Around and around we go.
If I look at these putative theories I can see some credence in them. During my life I’ve eaten a vast amount of sugary and fatty foods (it’s so hard to stop!) and as I mentioned in my first post I have been warned that I could become diabetic at any time, which is an inflammatory disorder. Also, I suffer from severe depression and anxiety, which I’m on medication for. None of my relations as far as I know have rosacea, however, there are quite a few red faces in my family (but I think that is actually down to the booze)! Furthermore, oddly enough, about the time my rosacea started to manifest, our dog, Jack, had a chronic case of demodex mites. Is it possible I ‘caught’ the mites from the dog. According to Vets this is impossible, though it does seem like quite a coincidence. So all these factors could be why I have developed rosacea. But it’s frustrating not to come to a definitive conclusion, it’s all ifs and buts.
In the next part I’ll examine what can trigger a rosacea flare up and what to do to try and keep it under control.