What is rosacea?
Rosacea (say "roh-ZAY-shuh") is a very common skin disease that affects people over the age of 30. It causes redness on your nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead. Some people get little bumps and pimples on the red parts of their faces. Rosacea can also cause burning and soreness in your eyes.
Some people say that having rosacea keeps them from feeling confident at work or in social situations. If your rosacea bothers you or has gotten worse, talk to your doctor. Getting treatment can help your skin look and feel better. And it may keep your rosacea from getting worse.
What causes rosacea?
Experts are not sure what causes rosacea. They know that something irritates the skin and affects the skin's immune response. It tends to affect people who have fair skin or blush easily, and it seems to run in families.
The pattern of redness on a person's face makes it easy for a doctor to diagnose rosacea. And most of the time medical tests are not needed or used.
Rosacea is not caused by heavy alcohol use, as people thought in the past. But in people who have rosacea, drinking alcohol may cause symptoms to get worse (flare).
Rosacea often flares when something causes the blood vessels in the face to expand, which causes redness. Things that cause a flare-up are called triggers. Common triggers are exercise, sun and wind exposure, hot weather, stress, spicy foods, alcohol, and hot baths. Swings in temperature from hot to cold or cold to hot can also cause a flare-up of rosacea.
What are the symptoms?
People with rosacea may have:
- A flushed, red face with sensitive, dry skin that may burn or sting.
- Small bumps and pimples or acne-like breakouts.
- Skin that gets coarser and thicker, with a bumpy texture.
- Dry, red, irritated eyes.
In rare cases, rosacea that is not treated may cause permanent effects, such as thickening of the skin on your face or loss of vision. It may cause knobby bumps on the nose, called rhinophyma (say "ry-no-FY-muh"). Over time, it can give the nose a swollen, waxy look. But most cases of rosacea don't progress this far.
How is it treated?
Doctors can prescribe medicines and other treatments for rosacea. There is no cure, but with treatment, most people can control their symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse.
- Redness and breakouts can be treated with:
- Pills, such as low-dose antibiotics like doxycycline.
- Skin creams that contain medicine, such as azelaic acid, brimonidine, or metronidazole.
- Redness from tiny blood vessels can be treated with lasers and another light treatment called intense pulsed light (IPL).
- Dry, sensitive skin can be protected with products for sensitive skin, such as moisturizers and sunscreen.
- Dry, red, and irritated eyes can be treated with artificial tears or prescription eyedrops that contain a medicine such as cyclosporine.
- Thickened or bumpy skin on the nose or face can be treated with cosmetic surgery.
How can you prevent rosacea flare-ups?
There are some things you can do to reduce symptoms and keep rosacea from getting worse.
- Get any bothersome symptoms under control. A dermatologist can prescribe treatments to reduce redness and any breakouts.
- Find your triggers. One of the most important things is to learn what triggers your flare-ups, and then avoid them. It can help to keep a diary of what you were eating, drinking, and doing on days that the rosacea appeared. Take the diary to your next doctor visit, and discuss what you can do to help control the disease.
- Protect your face. Stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. When you are outdoors, protect your face by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or visor. Use a sunscreen that is rated SPF 30 or higher every day. If your skin is dry, find a moisturizer with sunscreen.
- Be gentle with your skin. Use skin care products for sensitive skin, and avoid any products that scratch or irritate your skin. Try not to rub or scrub your skin.
- Take care of your eyes. Gently wash your eyelids with a product made for the eyes. Apply a warm, wet cloth several times a day. Use artificial tears if your eyes feel dry. Or talk to your doctor about medicine you can put into your eyes.
Other Works Consulted
- Abramowicz M (2013). Drugs for acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 11(125): 1–8.
- Berth-Jones J (2010). Rosacea. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies, 3rd ed., pp. 669–676. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier.
- Habif TP (2010). Acne, rosacea, and related disorders. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 217–263. Philadelphia: Mosby.
- Pelle MT (2012). Rosacea. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 918–925. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Van Zuuren EJ, et al. (2011). Interventions for rosacea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
- Wolff K, Johnson RA (2009). Rosacea. In Fitzpatrick's Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology, 6th ed., pp. 9–13. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: April 1, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology