Ocular Rosacea

What is Ocular Rosacea?

Ocular Rosacea is a condition in which inflammation causes burning, itching, and redness in the eyes. As implied by the name, it is often seen in patients who already have rosacea on the face, but it may also be the first indication that the condition will develop later in life. Ocular rosacea usually affects middle-aged adults, many of whom tend to flush or blush more easily than most people. It can ultimately lead to various problems with vision and, in the worst cases, vision loss.

Medical experts cannot say with certainty exactly what causes the condition. However, it is known that reactive blood vessels, microorganisms that are present on the skin surface, and immunological factors all play a part. Demodex mites, which are usually found on the eyelashes, can cause the inflammation associated with ocular rosacea. It may also be triggered by bacteria, issues with tear production, heredity, and environmental factors.

What are the Symptoms of Ocular Rosacea?

Ocular rosacea does not only affect the whites of the eyes. It can also cause inflammation in the cornea, eyelids, and – rarely – the sclera and iris. Common symptoms include:

  • Increased tear production
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dry eye
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Redness
  • Feeling of something in the eye
  • Pimples on the eyelid
  • Inflammation
  • Infection

Ocular Rosacea Causes

Ocular rosacea is closely related to skin rosacea. The exact cause of both of these conditions are unknown, but there are a number of conditions that influence patients to develop them.

Genetics seems to be a factor, as there is a strong correlation between family members developing this condition. There may also be environmental factors, such as high winds, extremes in temperature and sunlight, that influence its development.

Bacterial infections are thought to be a cause in some patients. In some cases, ocular rosacea may be caused by glands in the eyelids that become blocked. Some patients have eyelid mites that irritate the eyes and may cause this condition.

Some evidence also suggests that strenuous exercise, eating or drinking spicy and hot foods and drinks, taking hot baths, drinking alcohol and sitting in saunas can cause ocular rosacea. There are also emotional factors that have an effect, with anger, stress and embarrassment possible causes.

Some medications are believed to cause this condition. Medications that dilate blood vessels and cortisone creams can bring on ocular rosacea. Those who have skin rosacea are more likely to develop this type of rosacea. In addition, people who easily blush are more likely to have this eye condition.

How is Ocular Rosacea Treated?

While there is no known cure for ocular rosacea, it can often be well controlled with improved hygiene and home eye care. Various helpful treatments include washing the eyelids with warm water, avoiding contact lenses and makeup when inflammation occurs, and using artificial tears when the eyes feel dry.

It is important to keep up with these practices even when flare-ups are not present. In cases where patients are experiencing an eye infection, doctors may prescribe a regimen of various oral antibiotics. This is often temporary, although severe infections will require longer treatment times.

Ocular Rosacea Prevention

In some cases, such as those who develop ocular rosacea for unknown reasons, it may not be possible to prevent this condition. For many patients, it is possible to prevent it with certain lifestyle changes.

Having an effective, regular eye-care routine can prevent flare-ups. Clean your eyelids twice daily, even when the symptoms aren’t present, to prevent it from occurring. Using water to cleanse the eyelids is usually effective, but your doctor may suggest other products, such as baby shampoo, to clean them with.

Avoid alcohol and spicy foods to determine whether these cause flare-ups. Use makeup that is oil-free, fragrance free and noncomedogenic to avoid irritating your eyes.

Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
January 18, 2018