Your face is your window to the world, so blotchy red skin can cause you a lot of embarrassment and distress. Fortunately, redness on your face is usually pretty harmless and easy to deal with. Many conditions can cause red rashes, spots or bumps on your face, though, and sometimes a red face can be a sign of a more serious problem. Knowing what to look for and when to see your doctor can help you take care of your health, as well as your appearance.
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Contact dermatitis is the most common cause of blotchy red skin on your face. Contact dermatitis is a reaction to something you've come in contact with; it is a red, itchy rash that can include bumps or even blisters in severe cases. Sensitivity to fragrances in moisturizers, cleansers or cosmetics often causes contact dermatitis; red, itchy dry areas on your skin are symptoms of such a sensitivity. An allergic reaction to substances such as poison ivy can also cause contact dermatitis.Test new skin care products on the inside of your wrist before you use them on larger areas of your skin, and see a doctor if your skin is painful or extremely uncomfortable, if you think it's infected, or if over-the counter creams and antihistamines haven't worked.
Exposure to sunlight is another cause of allergic-type skin reactions. Blisters, bumps, hives or red blotches on your skin after you have been out in the sun are signs of a sunlight allergy. Some medications can also cause you to break out from sun exposure -- birth control pills, some antibiotics, and some medicines for arthritis, depression or high blood pressure are some common culprits. Your pharmacist can tell you if you should avoid sunlight because of your medication; your allergist or dermatologist can tell you if you are allergic to sunlight.
Rosacea is a skin disorder that strikes women more often than men, and usually starts after age 30. The first symptom is usually flushing that comes and goes, which turns into persistent redness on your face, neck or ears. Other symptoms include small, visible blood vessels on your face, red, acne-like bumps, eye irritation, burning or stinging on your skin, swelling or skin thickening due to excess tissue. A dermatologist can tell you whether you have rosacea, and recommend a treatment, such as oral or topical medication or treatment with a laser or other device -- it all depends on your symptoms. Dermatologists recommend using only gentle, non-abrasive skin care products if you suffer from rosacea.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a disease that causes your immune system to attack your own body. A red, butterfly-shaped rash on your cheeks and across the bridge of your nose can be a sign of lupus; about half of the people with lupus get this rash. The rash comes and goes, and usually gets worse after exposure to sunlight (see Resources). Since lupus can affect just about any part of the body, the symptoms and severity of this disease are different in each person. Some symptoms of lupus are fatigue, fever without a known cause, hair loss, joint pain, mouth sores, swollen lymph nodes or chest pain when you take a deep breath. There is no cure for lupus, but rheumatologists can treat the disease.
Polycythemia vera is a rare blood disorder that strikes more men than women; symptoms usually start after age 40. People with polycythemia vera have bone marrow that makes too many blood cells, which can lead to red blotches on your body, including your face. Other symptoms of polycythemia vera include tingling or itching on your skin -- especially after a warm shower or bath -- shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, chest pain, trouble breathing when you lie down, fatigue, and tingling, numbness and weakness or burning in your extremities. You might also feel bloated in your upper left abdomen due to an enlarged spleen. Physicians can treat this disease, which can be life-threatening without proper care.