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Rosacea: My Story

October 24, 2017

Five years ago, I made a blog video on my struggles with rosacea. If you missed the post, let me first tell you about what rosacea is. Rosacea is a chronic disease and skin condition that causes inflammation and visible strained blood vessels in a person's face. In my face, it caused redness and small, red, pus-filled bumps.

I also experienced eye problems. About half of the people who have rosacea also experience eye dryness, irritation and swollen, reddened eyelids. I too have these eye issues. In some people, rosacea's eye symptoms precede the skin symptoms. Rarely, rosacea can thicken the skin on the nose, causing the nose to appear bulbous (rhinophyma). This occurs more often in men than in women.

Evidence appears to be mounting that an overabundance of Demodex may possibly trigger an immune response in people with rosacea, or that the inflammation may be caused by certain bacteria associated with the mites. While every person carries these mites on their face, people with rosacea have more mites on their facial skin surfaces than most.

Also, let me make sure I tell you that rosacea is NOT CONTAGIOUS.


Rosacea Triggers

Rosacea comes in outbreaks that are usually triggered by something. Some of the triggers that cause rosacea outbreaks are emotional stress, sun exposure, drugs that dilate blood vessels, spicy food, hot drinks, some blood pressure medications, hot and windy weather, exercise and alcohol consumption.

It hurt me so much physically and definitely hurt my self-esteem (mentally and emotionally). I would sometimes not want to go to functions because I had an outbreak. People would point it out as if I didn't see it, it was somewhat horrifying. I had to turn down photo shoots because I was ashamed of what I looked like. Let's just say Photoshop became my friend.

Rosacea Treatment That Works

For 5 years I would get outbreaks. At first, I used something called Metro Gel and it dried up my skin. The Metro Gel was uncomfortable and wasn't strong enough. The second try at treatment was a topical medicine called Rosacea Treatment Gel that can be found over the counter. This did help my rosacea better than the Metro Gel ever did.

I was speaking with a friend of mine, and I had no idea that she suffered from rosacea as well. I asked how she did it because I had never seen her have an outbreak at all. She told me about Oracea (doxycycline) and that I should talk to my doctor about it. So, I called my doctor asked if it would interfere with my HIV medication (Odefsey) and he said it should be fine.

When you take Oracea, you have to drink a lot of water and decrease your exposure to the sun. Currently, there is no cure for rosacea BUT I haven't had an outbreak since I began treatment with Oracea this year; I have not had any issues.

Sometimes people living with HIV have to worry about being susceptible to more infection and illness than people who are not infected with HIV. Rosacea is no exception.

[Note from This article was originally published by Justin B. Terry-Smith on Oct. 19, 2017. We have cross-posted it with his permission.]

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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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