Rosacea [roh-ZAY-shuh] is a common skin condition that usually affects the face. It often begins with redness and flushing but may lead to swelling, pimples, thickened skin, and even red, irritated eyes. Rosacea is sometimes mistaken for acne, an allergic reaction, or other skin conditions.
Rosacea is most common in middle-aged and older adults, especially women and people with fair skin. It is a long-term or lifelong disease that can’t be cured, but treatment can help symptoms. Treatment of rosacea may include medicines and lifestyle changes. If the rosacea is left untreated, your symptoms may get worse over time.
People with rosacea may find that common products, situations, or even foods cause the condition to flare up. These are sometimes referred to as “triggers.” Knowing your triggers can help you control your symptoms. Common rosacea triggers include:
- Sun exposure
- Emotional stress
- Hot weather
- Hot baths
- Alcoholic drinks
- Certain skin care products and cosmetics
Rosacea has four subtypes that affect symptoms:
- Subtype 1, erythematotelangiectatic [er-uh-THEE-muh-toh-tel-AN-jee-ek-TAT-ik] rosacea. This presents as flushing, redness, and visible blood vessels.
- Subtype 2, papulopustular [PAIP-yeh-lo-PUS-cheh-lur] rosacea. This involves swelling, redness, and acne-like lesions.
- Subtype 3, phymatous [FY-meh-tus] rosacea. This subtype involves a thickening of the skin, which also becomes bumpy in texture (a condition also known as rhinophyma [rie-no-FIE-muh]).
- Subtype 4, ocular [ok-yuh-ler] rosacea. This subtype affects the eyes, which become red and irritated. The eyelids can swell up, and you may develop what looks like a sty.
If you do not treat the rosacea, over time, the swelling and bumps may get worse, and you will probably develop permanent redness in the center of your face.
Rosacea typically begins any time after age 30 as redness on the nose, chin, forehead, or cheeks. It may also show up on the chest, scalp, or ears. You may also notice that your eyes are affected, appearing bloodshot and watery. Rosacea may come and go, but over time, the redness becomes more persistent, and visible blood vessels often appear.
Over time, bumps and small pus-filled bumps may develop. In severe cases, the nose may even grow swollen and look bumpy from excess tissue.
The exact cause of rosacea is not known.
For some, the disorder may be caused by genetic factors. This means rosacea can be hereditary or passed from parents to child – even if the parents don’t have signs of the disorder.
Rosacea is more frequently diagnosed in women, but men diagnosed with rosacea often have more severe symptoms than women. People with fair skin who are prone to blush or flush easily are most at risk for rosacea.
Your dermatologist will diagnose rosacea with a physical exam of your skin and eyes. They will also ask you questions about your medical history. No medical tests are needed.
Your dermatologist will want to rule out any other medical conditions that can look like rosacea, such as allergies or lupus.
Medical therapy can control or reverse the symptoms of rosacea. If you think you may have rosacea, see your doctor or a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. While treatment can’t cure rosacea, it can help prevent it from getting worse, ease discomfort, and reduce the signs of rosacea on your skin.
Your dermatologist may recommend treatment that could include:
- Avoiding triggers for flareups, which are different for everyone
- Protect your skin from sun exposure with sunscreen, protective clothing, and hats
- Antibiotic medicine
- Laser treatment
- Topical ointments or lotions
- Using mild skin products and cosmetics
- Being gentle with your skin instead of scrubbing