This paper explores the different problems that may be causing flushing. The list of possible reasons other than rosacea is extensive. It is worth consider what other conditions may be causing your red face before embarking on any treatment regime. Treatments that are good for some of the conditions listed here may make your rosacea worse, so read as widely as you can.
The author was kind enough provide a full copy of this paper, so contact me if you’d like to read it.
If you would like some ideas about about how to treat a red face, see another popular article I wrote titled how to treat a red face
The flushing patient: Differential diagnosis, workup, and treatment, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 55, Issue 2 , August 2006, Pages 193-208. Leonid Izikson MD, Joseph C. English III MD and Matthew J. Zirwas MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Abstract: Cutaneous flushing—a common presenting complaint to dermatologists, allergists, internists, and family practitioners—results from changes in cutaneous blood flow triggered by multiple conditions. Most cases are caused by very common, benign diseases, such as rosacea or climacterum, that are readily apparent after a thorough taking of history and physical examination. However, in some cases, accurate diagnosis requires further laboratory, radiologic, or histopathologic studies to differentiate several important clinicopathologic entities. In particular, the serious diagnoses of carcinoid syndrome, pheochromocytoma, mastocytosis, and anaphylaxis need to be excluded by laboratory studies. If this work-up is unrevealing, rare causes, such as medullary carcinoma of the thyroid, pancreatic cell tumor, renal carcinoma, and others, should be considered.
Learning objective: At the completion of this learning activity, participants should be familiar with the mechanisms of flushing, its clinical differential diagnosis, the approach to establish a definitive diagnosis, and management of various conditions that produce flushing.
Abbreviations: CS, carcinoid syndrome; 5-HIAA, 5-hydroxyindoleoacetic acid; 5-HT, 5-hydroxytryptamine; MCT, medullary carcinoma of the thyroid; NSAID, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug; TMEP, telangiectasia macularis eruptiva perstans; VIP, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide
When evaluating patients with rosacea, it is important to exclude the diagnoses of polycythemia vera, photosensitive eruption, lupus erythematosus, mixed connective tissue disease, carcinoid syndrome, systemic mastocytosis, or side effects from long-termfacial application of topical steroids. Since rosacea is typically limited to the face, extra facial erythema is generally an exclusionary sign. Rosacea flushing is associated with burning or stinging but not sweating, lightheadedness, or palpitations. Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, while considered by many to represent a separate entity, may in fact be difficult to distinguish from simple benign cutaneous flushing and sun-damaged skin. In attempting this distinction, it may be useful to assess the extent of baseline facial telangiectasia and the overall degree of poikiloderma. However, since these 3 conditions are all common, they may coexist in many patients. Also, since erythematotelangiectatic rosacea and benign cutaneous flushing may have common triggers for flushing, it may be reasonable to consider these 2 entities as different points on a single continuum, making distinction of academic value only.
Differential diagnosis of flushing
Benign cutaneous flushing
Food or beverage
Uncommon, serious causes
Medullary thyroid carcinoma
Pancreatic cell tumor (VIP tumor)
Renal cell carcinoma
Psychiatric or anxiety disorders
Trigeminal nerve damage
Very rare causes
Sarcoid, mitral stenosis, dumping syndrome, male androgen deficiency, arsenic intoxication,
POEMS syndrome, basophilic granulocytic leukemia, bronchogenic carcinoma, malignant histiocytoma, malignant neuroblastoma, malignant, ganglioneuroma, peri-aortic surgery,
Leigh syndrome, Rovsing syndrome
Summary: The differential diagnosis of cutaneous flushing is extensive and encompasses a variety of benign and malignant entities. Most flushing reactions result from benign causes. However, since flushing may be the presenting sign or symptom of several life-threatening conditions, it should prompt a thorough investigation to exclude such possibilities as anaphylaxis, systemic mastocytosis, carcinoid syndrome and other malignant tumors, pheochromocytoma, and autonomic epilepsy after more common benign causes have been ruled out and if there is no response to treatment. In the absence of an identifiable benign organic cause of flushing, psychiatric illness must be suspected and the patient should undergo appropriate evaluation. History and physical examination are critical in the evaluation of the cause of flushing and should be supplemented with laboratory and other investigations based on the clinical suspicion of an underlying cause. The most common causes of flushing – fever, emotional flushing, climacterium, and rosacea are obvious to most physicians and thus are likely to be promptly recognized and treated appropriately. Dermatologists have a unique role in the management of patients with flushing, as referred patients may be unresponsive to conventional therapy and are more likely to have a serious or life-threatening underlying cause. Accordingly, proper workup, recognition, and management of conditions that cause cutaneous flushing may have a significant impact on the patients’ morbidity and mortality.
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