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Rosacea, A Condition or Disease?


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Is rosacea a condition or a disease? Technically, it depends on how you are referring to rosacea in a statement. 

"A medical condition is a broad term that includes all diseases, lesions, disorders, or nonpathologic condition that normally receives medical treatment, such as pregnancy or childbirth." [1]

One report says, “rosacea is not actually a disease, but rather a chronic dermatologic condition that predominantly affects the convexities of the central aspect of the face.” [2]

“Francis Wilkin of the FDA, whose serious studies have given us impressive insights into the nature and mechanisms of flushing, has proposed some concepts, which are inexplicable to most of us. He avers that rosacea is not a disease but a “condition”. He labels rosacea an ideotype, a cluster of signs and symptoms, apparently not a pathologic entity warranting a specific nosologic status. To be sure, rosacea is a multifactional disorder with many different clinical expressions. Nonetheless, it meets all the classical requirements of a pathologic process, most obviously the presence of chronic inflammation, both clinically and histologically. Calling rosacea a ‘condition’ downgrades the seriousness of the disorder, perhaps implying that it is only a cosmetic nuisance.” [3]

"A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of all or part of an organism, and that is not due to any immediate external injury....The term disease broadly refers to any condition that impairs the normal functioning of the body." [1]

“Rosacea is a common and chronic disorder characterized by flushing, erythema, papules, pustules, and telangiectasia on the central part of the face. Because the facial skin of individuals with rosacea is particularly sensitive, irritants can trigger a worsening of the signs and symptoms of the disease.” [4]

“Once considered a variant of acne, this common skin disorder seems fairly well entrenched as a disease sui generis.” [5]

Terms Condition/Disease Used Interchangeably
“Most words of this type in medicine rooted in Latin from thousands of years ago do not have precise definitions!” [6]

“The terms disease & condition are often used interchangeably in the literature.” [7]

“…this is semantics: disease, affliction or condition all refer to the same meaning.” [8]

While both Dr. Millikan and Dr. Wilkin refer to rosacea as a 'condition' and not a 'disease’, there is no need to feel that somehow makes rosacea less important since the two words are used in most medical literature interchangeably. 

End Notes

[1] Disease, Wikipedia

[2] Skinmed 2003;2(1) 
The Proposed Inflammatory Pathophysiology of Rosacea: Implications for Treatment
Larry Millikan, MD

[3] A Personal Critique on the State of Knowledge of Rosacea
Albert M. Kligman , M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.
The William J. Cunliffe Lectureship 2003—Manuscript

[4] J Dermatolog Treat. 2007;18(3):158-62. 
Beneficial use of Cetaphil(R) Moisturizing Cream as part of a daily skin care regimen for individuals with rosacea 
Laquieze S, Czernielewski J, Baltas E.

[5] Postgrad Med. 2002 Dec;112(6):51-8, 82; quiz 9. 
Unraveling the mystery of rosacea, Keys to getting the red out
Ken Landow, MD

[6] Robert T. Brodell, MD, RRDi MAC, post no 2

[7] Sandra Cremers, M.D., RRDi MAC, post no 3

[8] Marianne Boes, PhD, RRDi MAC (former member), post no 3

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