What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that is characterized by red patches and small, red, pus-filled bumps on the face. Rosacea typically appears in cycles on your nose, cheek and foreheads. Rosacea may flare up for a few weeks or months and then go into remission for a period.

Rosacea affects more than 16 million Americans. Although there is not a cure, your symptoms can be treated.

Types of rosacea

There are four types of rosacea:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR)
    ETR also known as subtype one, is characterized by facial redness, visible blood vessels and flushing
  • Papulopustular (acne)
    Papulopustularalso known as subtype two rosacea, appears like acne and occurs most frequently in middle-aged women.
  • Rhinophyma
    Rhinophyma, or subtype three rosacea, is a characterized by thickening skin on and around the nose. Rhinophyma most often affects men.
  • Ocular rosacea
    Ocular rosacea, also known as subtype four rosacea, is characterized by redness, swelling on and around the eye.

Causes of rosacea

Although the cause of rosacea is unknown, it has been associated with environmental factors or family history.

Triggers that can amplify the appearance of rosacea include:

  • Eating spicy foods or drinking hot drinks
  • Exposure to sunlight or wind
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Stress
  • Cosmetics
  • Exercise
  • Medications that dilate your blood vessels

Risk factors for rosacea

Risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing rosacea include:

  • Age
    Rosacea is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Skin tone
    People who are fair-skinned and have blond hair and blue eyes are more likely to develop rosacea.
  • Genetics
    You are more likely to develop rosacea if you have a family history of rosacea or if your ancestors are from Scandinavia or Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
  • Gender
    Women are more likely to develop rosacea than men.

Symptoms of rosacea

Symptoms of rosacea include:

  • Redness on the face
    Persistent redness on your nose or cheeks that is caused by small blood vessels that become swollen under the skin.
  • Swollen red bumps
    Small, red bumps on the face that look like acne.
  • Eye problems
    Many people with rosacea experience eye dryness, irritation and swollen, red eyelids.
  • Thickened skin on your nose
    In rare cases, the skin can thicken on your nose. This symptom is more common in men than women.

Diagnosis of rosacea

Your doctor will likely diagnose rosacea in a clinic visit. He or she will evaluate your medical history, examine your skin and potentially order tests to rule out other skin conditions. Conditions such as lupus, psoriasis, eczema or acne have similar symptoms as rosacea.

Treatments for rosacea

There is not a cure for rosacea, so the goal of treatment is to alleviate the signs and symptoms to improve appearance and quality of life. As a first-line therapy, your doctor may recommend that you follow conservative treatment options to reduce symptoms or prevent flare-ups of rosacea.

Rosacea treatments may include:

  • Avoid triggers that causes your flare-ups
  • Apply sunscreen daily to protect your face
  • Avoid rubbing or touching your face too much
  • Apply makeup as a cover-up

Find a dermatologist nearby

Mercy Health locations that can treat you