The primary feature of rosacea, as the name suggests, is flushing. This inflammatory condition is transient at first, triggered occasionally by alcohol, spicy food or the “heat” of emotional stress. Over time, if untreated, it can become permanent, without any ebb and flow.
TCM understands rosacea as the result of an energetic imbalance in the body. According to Chinese medicine, healthy bodies circulate blood and energy (called qi) freely; illness is the result of blood or qi blockages or stagnations. In TCM, rosacea is considered to be the result of energy stagnation called a ‘heat condition.’ In this model, stagnant heat is trapped in the lung system (the system that controls the health of the skin) or the stomach and spleen systems, and this heat rises to the face to cause inflammation.
As mentioned, the early phase is characterised by transient flushing and blushing. There may also be some digestive complaints such as acid reflux, excessive appetite, bad breath and constipation. TCM considers this stage a manifestation of stomach heat, as the stomach meridian vertically traverses the cheeks. At this point, the rosacea can be treated fairly quickly.
When rosacea becomes persistent, the redness is permanent and unchanging, and is often accompanied by red bumps and possibly coarse skin. Congested capillaries may be visible at the surface. Occasionally sufferers skip directly to this stage of the condition, sometimes without any preceding history of flushing, and for no apparent reason. From the point of view of TCM, the persistent phase of rosacea is much more a problem of stagnation of blood flow in the channels of the face — a problem of poor circulation. We commonly tend to think of poor circulation as being a cold condition, intuitively. However, this stage of rosacea is a very good illustration of heat causing congestion of the blood vessels and “thickening” of blood, so that it can no longer flow properly. In fact, it is interesting that women with this condition tend to also have gynecological symptoms of blood stagnation such as clotted blood and painful periods. These often clear up as the rosacea treatment is administered.
An acupuncture treatment begins with a thorough examination and detailed consultation in order to pinpoint the imbalance at the root of the outbreak, and then customize a treatment plan to address the problem. Treatment also include herbs and suggested lifestyle changes. Acupuncture needling disperses heat and qi stagnation and rebalances the body’s acidity levels. These treatments may also help the patient manage any stress which may have contributed to the condition. Along with needling, herbs help to rebalance the body’s systems. Lifestyle changes may also be recommended: avoiding hot and spicy foods, eliminating wheat and dairy from the diet, introducing vitamins A, B, C, D, E and zinc supplements, and consuming more fibre and water. Avoiding common rosacea triggers such as long-time exposure to heat, adverse synthetic chemicals and alcohol is also recommended.
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