Diagnosis of Rosacea

There is no specific test for rosacea, so doctors base the diagnosis on the appearance of your skin and eyes, and on your medical history. Your doctor may order tests to rule out other conditions that look like rosacea.

Treatment of Rosacea

There is no cure for rosacea, but there are ways to make your skin look and feel better. Symptoms of rosacea differ among individuals, so doctors tailor treatments to each person. A combination of self-care measures and medications is typical. Most people respond well to therapy, but improvement is usually gradual and it can take 3 months or longer to see results. While treatment is usually long term, there may be times when symptoms improve and you can temporarily stop using medications.

The goals of treatment are to:

  • Control symptoms.
  • Prevent worsening of the condition and complications.
  • Improve quality of life.

Your treatment may include:

Medications. Topical agents are usually prescribed first, as long as symptoms are fairly mild. Oral medications are typically only used for moderate or severe cases.

  • Topical agents.
  • Creams, gels, and ointments that contain antibiotics, antiparasitics, or vasoconstrictors (substances that narrow blood vessels) are used to treat flushing and redness, as well as mild rashes.
  • People with eye irritation are treated with lubricating eye drops or ointments that contain antibiotics or immunosuppressant medications.
  • Oral medications.
  • Antibiotics. These are used for moderate to severe rashes and more serious eye symptoms. The antibiotics that are used are believed to work, at least in part, because they have anti-inflammatory properties as well as antibiotic effects.
  • Retinoids. These compounds, which are related to vitamin A, may help some people with severe rosacea.
  • Occasionally, drugs approved for other conditions are used to reduce flushing.

Laser and light-based therapies. Lasers and intense pulsed light devices can help shrink blood vessels, making them less noticeable. Doctors may also use laser therapy to remove excess tissue in people who have developed thickened skin.

Surgery. Surgery may be needed when thickened skin needs to be removed. The procedure may involve use of a scalpel or special abrasion instruments.

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

There are ways that you can take an active part in controlling your rosacea. Besides going to your doctor regularly, there are a number of things you can do to relieve discomfort 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. Keeping a written record of what seems to make your rosacea worse may help you identify your triggers.

Triggers vary among individuals, but some of the common ones are:

  • Exposure to sunlight.
  • Emotional stress.
  • Hot or cold weather.
  • Strong winds.
  • Strenuous exercise.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Hot baths.
  • Spicy foods.
  • Foods or beverages hot in temperature.

Treat your skin gently. Wash your face with cleansers made for sensitive skin, and moisturize regularly. Avoid exfoliants and alcohol-based products.

Protect your skin from the sun. Use an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen formulated for the face on a daily basis. This will protect your skin from broad-spectrum UV and visible light.

Pay attention to your eyes. Be alert for eye redness or burning. Many people with rosacea develop eye irritation, and if it is not treated, it can lead to problems with your eyesight. If you develop eye irritation, see your doctor right away. He or she may recommend scrubbing your eyelids gently with watered-down baby shampoo or an eyelid cleanser, and then applying a warm (but not hot) compress a few times a day.

Get support. Having a long-term condition like rosacea can be challenging, and can raise the risk of anxiety and depression. Many people with rosacea, especially those with more noticeable skin changes, have reported that it inhibits their social lives. Visit a mental health professional or join an in-person or online support group if emotional problems arise.

Related Information

View/Download/Order Publications