Rosacea is a skin disorder. It causes chronic redness of the face. It can also cause swelling, tiny pimples, and the appearance of broken blood vessels. Rosacea usually affects the cheeks, forehead, chin, and nose. The ears, chest, and back may also be affected. More than half of people with rosacea also have mild eye symptoms. This may include redness, burning, and watering. This is known as ocular rosacea.
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The cause of rosacea is unknown. Several theories exist.
Factors that can cause flushing or blushing may trigger flare-ups in people with rosacea.
These factors include:
- Very hot or spicy foods
- Sun exposure
- Extreme temperatures (very hot or very cold)
- Emotional stress or social embarrassment
- Rubbing, scrubbing, or massaging the face
- Irritating cosmetics and other toiletries
Rosacea in more common in women, between 30 and 60 years old, and in people with fair skin.
Factors that increase your risk for rosacea include:
- Having family members who have rosacea
The symptoms of rosacea vary from person to person. They include:
- Frequent flushing on the face and neck
- Redness and swelling on the face
- Small pink bumps and/or pimples
- Thin red lines showing the small blood vessels of the face
- Redness, burning, dryness, and tearing of the eyes
- An enlarged, bulbous red nose (less common, affecting men more than women)
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your skin will also be examined. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders. This type of doctor is called a dermatologist. Do not try to diagnose or treat yourself. Certain over-the-counter medications could make your condition worse.
Rosacea generally can't be cured. It can be controlled. There are several ways to manage rosacea. Your doctor may recommend more than one, depending on your condition.
Prescription medications for rosacea include:
- Antibiotics applied to the skin
- Other topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, sulfa, or tretinoin
- Antibiotics taken by mouth
In more severe cases, medications may sometimes include:
- Oral isotretinoin
- In very rare more severe cases, oral methotrexate, dapsone, primaquine, chloroquine, or prednisone
Topical cortisone is generally avoided on the face. It can make rosacea worse in the long run. It can be effective as very short-term treatment.
Treatment for redness or flushing may include:
- Clonidine in low doses
- Beta blockers (certain types)
The following procedures minimize redness, enlarged blood vessels, and an enlarged nose:
- Laser surgery
Preventing rosacea can be difficult. If you have rosacea, there are several steps you can take to control the condition:
- Avoid things that may trigger flushing or blushing. This includes certain foods, alcohol, and exposure to the sun.
- Protect your skin from the sun. Use clothing, hats, or sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
- Exercise in a cool environment to avoid overheating.
Avoid anything that irritates your skin:
- Apply topical medications, moisturizers, and cosmetics very gently
- Use cleansers, moisturizers, cosmetics, and other toiletries that are gentle and alcohol-free
American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at:
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders website. Available at:
Tanzi EL, Weinberg JM. The ocular manifestations of rosacea.
Crawford GH, Pelle MT, et al. Rosacea: I. Etiology, pathogenesis, and subtype classification.
J Am Acad Dermatol.
2004;51:327-341;quiz 342-344. Review.
Pelle MT, Crawford GH, et al. Rosacea: II therapy.
J Am Acad Dermatol.
2004;51:499-512;quiz 513-514. Review.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens. Accessed October 20, 2014.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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