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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Rosacea - Topic Overview

What is rosacea?

Rosacea (say "roh-ZAY-shuh") is a very common skin disease that affects people over the age of 30. It causes redness on your nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead. Some people get little bumps and pimples on the red parts of their faces. Rosacea can also cause burning and soreness in your eyes.

Some people say that having rosacea keeps them from feeling confident at work or in social situations. If your rosacea bothers you or has gotten worse, talk to your doctor. Getting treatment can help your skin look and feel better. And it may keep your rosacea from getting worse.

What causes rosacea?

Experts are not sure what causes rosacea. They know that something irritates the skin, but rosacea doesn't seem to be an infection caused by bacteria. It tends to affect people who have fair skin or blush easily, and it seems to run in families.

The pattern of redness on a person's face makes it easy for a doctor to diagnose rosacea. And most of the time medical tests are not needed or used.

Rosacea is not caused by alcohol abuse, as people thought in the past. But in people who have rosacea, drinking alcohol may cause symptoms to get worse (flare).

Rosacea often flares when something causes the blood vessels in the face to expand, which causes redness. Things that cause a flare-up are called triggers. Common triggers are exercise, sun and wind exposure, hot weather, stress, spicy foods, alcohol, and hot baths. Swings in temperature from hot to cold or cold to hot can also cause a flare-up of rosacea.

What are the symptoms?

People with rosacea may have:

  • A flushed, red face with sensitive, dry skin that may burn or sting.
  • Small bumps and pimples or acne-like breakouts.
  • Skin that gets coarser and thicker, with a bumpy texture.
  • Dry, red, irritated eyes.

In rare cases, rosacea that is not treated may cause permanent effects, such as thickening of the skin on your face or loss of vision. It may cause knobby bumps on the nose, called rhinophymacamera.gif (say "ry-no-FY-muh"). Over time, it can give the nose a swollen, waxy look. But most cases of rosacea don't progress this far.

How is it treated?

Doctors can prescribe medicines and other treatments for rosacea. There is no cure, but with treatment, most people can control their symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse.

  • Redness and breakouts can be treated with:
    • Pills, such as low-dose antibiotics like doxycycline.
    • Skin creams that contain medicine, such as azelaic acid or metronizadole.
  • Redness from tiny blood vessels can be treated with lasers and another light treatment called intense pulsed light (IPL).
  • Dry, sensitive skin can be protected with products for sensitive skin, such as moisturizers and sunscreen.
  • Dry, red, and irritated eyes can be treated with artificial tears or prescription eyedrops that contain a medicine such as cyclosporine.
  • Thickened or bumpy skin on the nose or face can be treated with cosmetic surgery.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 25, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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