Living With Rosacea: Signs and Symptoms

Here are signs, symptoms and tips for treating this inflammatory skin condition.

Here are signs, symptoms and tips for treating this inflammatory skin condition

Rosacea is a long-term inflammatory dermatologic condition that affects an estimated 16 million people in the United States. It occurs more often in individuals between the ages of 30 and 60 years and affects primarily women and individuals with fair skin. However, this skin condition can affect anyone at any age and, if left untreated, will worsen over time. While women are more likely to get rosacea, men are more likely to get more severe cases of rosacea.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of rosacea vary in type and degree of severity from person to person. Rosacea causes redness or flushing of the skin around the cheeks, nose, chin, forehead and sometimes eyelids. Individuals with rosacea may also have raised red bumps that resemble acne and an appearance of a red swollen nose.

During the course of rosacea, patients experience flare-ups and periods of remission. More than 50 percent of individuals with rosacea have eye issues such as dryness, burning, excess tearing and inflamed and swollen eyelids. The eyes may also become sensitive to light.

Phases of Rosacea

Subtype 1: Persistent facial redness and flushing occurs.

Subtype 2: Persistent redness, bumps, pimples and raised patches become visible across the nose, cheeks, chin and forehead.

Subtype 3: Thickening of the skin occurs, especially around the nose.

Subtype 4: The eyelids become swollen and inflamed. Eyes may appear bloodshot or irritated, and may present with a burning or stinging sensation.

What Causes Rosacea?

While the exact cause of rosacea is still unknown, it does involve the swelling of the blood vessels just under the skin. Some research suggests that rosacea may be hereditary or related to one's immune system. Research also suggests that rosacea may be linked to the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which is responsible for peptic ulcer disease. Your doctor can easily diagnose rosacea by examining your skin and asking you questions about your symptoms and medical history. Factors or triggers that may make rosacea worse have been identified.

Most Common Rosacea Triggers:

Sun exposure

  • Stress
  • Hot weather
  • Wind
  • Intense exercise
  • Hot baths
  • Very cold temperatures
  • Hot or spicy foods and drinks
  • Drinking alcohol
  • High humidity
  • Indoor heat
  • Certain skin care products and cosmetics
  • Long-term use of steroids of the face
  • How Is Rosacea Treated?

    While there is no cure for rosacea, it can be effectively treated and managed by a dermatologist. The primary treatment involves avoidance of known triggers.

    To prevent flare-ups, it is advised to wear sunscreen daily to protect the skin. Treatment is individualized based on patient symptoms and may include oral and topical antibiotic therapy. Sometimes doctors elect to use laser skin therapy to improve skin.

    Individuals with ocular rosacea should also see an ophthalmologist for further evaluation and treatment if needed. Most patients who have ocular rosacea are treated with antibiotics or steroid eye drops. Your primary health care provider will determine which treatment is best for you.


    If you suspect that you have rosacea, it is important for you to obtain early treatment. If left untreated, rosacea may cause irreversible damage, especially if the eyes are involved. It is also important to only use non-irritating and hypoallergenic facial cleansers, lotions and cosmetics to avoid skin irritation. In addition, avoid the use of facial products that contain alcohol, witch hazel, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus oil or clove oil, and be careful to blot, not rub, the facial area when cleansing or drying skin. When possible, keep a symptom diary to track potential triggers, and avoid them when possible.

    A collaborative approach incorporating the use of non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic measures will help in effectively treating and managing rosacea. The best defense in managing rosacea is having a thorough understanding of this condition and the factors that trigger flare-ups, and adhering to your treatment regimen.