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Rosacea Learning Center

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Rosacea

What Is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that affects more than 16 million Americans. The cause of rosacea is still unknown, and there is no cure. However, research has allowed doctors to develop a course of treatment that effectively controls rosacea by minimizing its symptoms.

There are four subtypes of rosacea. Each subtype has its own set of symptoms. It is possible to have more than one subtype of rosacea at a time.

Rosacea’s trademark are small, red, pus-filled bumps on the skin that are present during flare-ups. Typically, rosacea affects only skin on your nose, cheeks, and forehead.

Flare-ups often occur in cycles. This means that you will experience symptoms for weeks or months at a time, the symptoms will go away, and then they will return.

Pictures of Rosacea

Types of Rosacea

Subtype one, known as erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR), is associated with facial redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels.

Subtype two, papulopustular (or acne) rosacea, is associated with acne-like breakouts and often affects middle-aged women.

Subtype three, known as rhinophyma, is a rare form that is associated with thickening of the skin of your nose. It usually affects men and is often accompanied by another subtype of rosacea.

Subtype four is ocular rosacea, and its symptoms are centered on the eye area.

Symptoms of Rosacea

Rosacea symptoms are different between each subtype.

Signs of rosacea ETR:

  • flushing and redness in the center of your face
  • visible broken blood vessels
  • swollen skin
  • sensitive skin
  • stinging and burning skin
  • dry, rough, and scaly skin

Signs of acne rosacea:

  • acne-like breakouts and very red skin
  • oily skin
  • sensitive skin
  • broken blood vessels that are visible
  • raised patches of skin

Signs of thickening skin:

  • bumpy skin texture
  • thick skin on nose
  • thick skin on chin, forehead, cheeks, and ears
  • large pores
  • visible broken blood vessels

Signs of ocular rosacea:

  • bloodshot and watery eyes
  • eyes that feel gritty
  • burning or stinging sensation in the eyes
  • dry, itchy eyes
  • eyes that are sensitive to light
  • cysts on eyes
  • diminished vision
  • broken blood vessels on eyelids

What Causes Rosacea?

The cause of rosacea has not been determined. It may be a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. It is known that some things may make your rosacea symptoms worse. These include:

  • eating spicy foods
  • drinking alcoholic beverages
  • having the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
  • a skin mite called demodex and the bacterium it carries, Bacillus oleronius
  • the presence of cathelicidin (a protein that protects the skin from infection)

Risk Factors for Rosacea

There are some factors that will make you more likely to develop rosacea than others. Rosacea often develops in people between the ages of 30 and 50. It is also more common in people who are fair-skinned and have blond hair and blue eyes.

There are also genetic links to rosacea. You are more likely to develop rosacea if you have a family history of the condition or if you have Celtic or Scandinavian ancestors. Women are also more likely to develop the condition than men. However, men who develop the condition often have more severe symptoms.

How Do I Know if I Have Rosacea?

Your doctor can easily diagnose rosacea from a physical examination of your skin. They may refer you to a dermatologist who can determine whether you have rosacea or another skin condition.

How Can I Control My Symptoms?

Rosacea cannot be cured, but you can take steps to control your symptoms.

Make sure to take care of your skin using gentle cleansers and oil-free, water-based skin-care products. Avoid products that contain:

  • alcohol
  • menthol
  • witch hazel
  • exfoliating agents

These ingredients may irritate your symptoms.

Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan. This is usually a regimen of antibiotic creams and oral antibiotics.

Keep a journal of the foods you eat and the cosmetics you put on your skin. This will help you figure out what makes your symptoms worse.

Other management steps include:

  • avoiding direct sunlight and wearing sunscreen
  • avoiding drinking alcohol
  • using lasers and light treatment to help with some severe cases of rosacea
  • microdermabrasion treatments to reduce thickening skin
  • taking eye medicines and antibiotics for ocular rosacea

Coping with Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that you will need to learn to manage. It can be difficult to cope with a chronic condition. Get support by finding support groups or online message boards. Connecting with other people who have rosacea can help you feel less alone.

Long-Term Outlook for Rosacea

Rosacea cannot be cured, but it can be controlled with treatment. Rosacea affects everyone differently and it can take time to figure out how to manage your condition. The best way to prevent an outbreak is to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan and avoid your triggers. 

Content licensed from:

Written by: Shannon Johnson
Published on Aug 20, 2012
Medically reviewed on Mar 14, 2016 by [Ljava.lang.Object;@711ff5b8

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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