What is rosacea?
Rosacea (ro-ZAY-she-ah) is a long-term skin condition that causes reddened skin and a rash, usually on the nose and cheeks. It may also cause eye problems.
Who gets rosacea?
Anyone can get rosacea, but it is more common among:
- Middle-aged and older adults.
- Women, but when men get it, it tends to be more severe.
- People with fair skin, but it may not be diagnosed as often in people with darker skin, since some symptoms may be harder to see in darker skin.
What are the symptoms of rosacea?
Most people only have some of the symptoms of rosacea, and the symptoms are different from one person to another. While the condition lasts a long time, rosacea often goes back and forth between flare-ups and times when you do not have symptoms.
The symptoms of rosacea include:
- Redness on the face, usually on the nose and cheeks. Over time, your face may be red or flushed for longer periods. You may also feel tingling or burning, and the reddened skin may turn rough and scaly.
- Rash. You may develop red or pus-filled bumps and pimples that look like acne.
- Visible blood vessels. These typically show up as thin red lines on the cheeks and nose.
- Thickened skin, especially on the nose. This is one of the more severe symptoms, and it mostly affects men.
- Eye irritation. In what is called ocular rosacea, the eyes become sore, red, itchy, watery, or dry. It is important to see a health care provider for any eye symptoms. Eye damage and vision loss can happen if left untreated.
The condition usually affects the center of the face, but in rare cases it can affect other parts of the body, such as the sides of the face, the ears, neck, scalp, and chest.
What causes rosacea?
Doctors do not know what causes rosacea, both genes and things in the environment likely play a role.
Is there a test for rosacea?
There is no specific test for rosacea. Doctors will look at your skin and eyes, and take your medical history. Your doctor may order tests to rule out other conditions.
How is rosacea treated?
There is no cure for rosacea, but there are ways to make your skin look and feel better. Most people respond well to a mix of medications and self-care measures. It can take 3 months or longer to see results.
The goals of treatment are to:
- Control symptoms.
- Prevent rosacea from getting worse.
- Improve quality of life.
Your treatment may include:
- Medications, such as creams or ointments to treat redness and flushing, and oral medications in more severe cases. People with eye irritation also may need eye drops or ointments for the eye.
- Laser and light-based therapies to help shrink blood vessels, making them less noticeable, and to help thin out skin that has gotten too thick.
- Surgery, if thickened skin needs to be removed.
Who treats rosacea?
Rosacea is primarily treated by:
- Dermatologists, who specialize in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails.
Other health care providers who may be involved in your care include:
- Mental health professionals, who can help people cope with difficulties in their social and professional lives that may result from their medical conditions.
- Ophthalmologists, who specialize in treating disorders and diseases of the eye.
Living with rosacea
Besides going to your doctor regularly, there are a number of things you can do to relieve the discomfort of rosacea and prevent flare-ups. The following tips can help make living with the condition easier.
Learn what your triggers are. Many people with rosacea find that certain factors, or triggers, make their symptoms worse. Write down what seems to make your rosacea worse.
Some common triggers are:
- Being in the sun.
- Feeling emotional stress.
- Being out in hot or cold weather or strong winds.
- Doing strenuous (hard) exercise.
- Drinking alcohol.
- Taking hot baths.
- Eating spicy foods or foods or beverages that are hot in temperature.
Treat your skin gently. Wash your face with cleansers made for sensitive skin, and moisturize regularly.
Protect your skin from the sun. Use an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen made for the face on a daily basis.
Watch for eye redness or burning. If you develop eye irritation, see your doctor right away.
Get support. Having a long-term condition like rosacea can be hard, and can raise the risk of anxiety and depression. Many people with rosacea, especially those with skin changes, report that it affects their social lives. Visit a mental health professional or join an in-person or online support group if you experience emotional problems.