What is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a skin condition that is fairly common. It causes visible blood vessels in the face, making it appear red.  Bumps filled with pus may also appear, increasing the red appearance.

People with rosacea have flare ups that can last as long as several months and then go away for periods of time.  It is most common in middle age women but it can appear in women and men of all ages.  There is no cure for it but there are several ways that it can be treated.

What are the Symptoms of Rosacea?

The most common symptom of rosacea is redness of the face.  The central part of the face is where it usually appears as small blood vessels swell.  Red bumps that look like pimples often appear and make the skin feel hot and tender to the touch.

About have of people with rosacea have problems with dry eyes, swelling, and redness around the eyes.  For some of those people, the eye problems can be worse than the skin symptoms.

In more extreme case, the skin on the nose can thicken and make it appear bulbous.  This does not usually happen with women and is more common in men.

Rosacea Causes

It isn’t clear what causes rosacea, but it appears that there could be several factors involved. For one, there is a genetic link to the condition, since many people with rosacea have a family history of it. Furthermore, most people with the condition are fair-skinned and have Celtic or Scandinavian ancestry.

The second possible cause of rosacea is the immune system. People who develop an acne-like rosacea may have an immune system which overreacts to a type of bacteria called bacillus oleronius. This bacteria seems to be found in Demodex, which is a mite that naturally lives on the skin, often harmlessly. Individuals with rosacea often have larger numbers of Demodex on their skin, which might explain why they may be particularly sensitive to bacillus oleronius.

Another possible cause of rosacea is H. pylori infection, which occurs in the gut. Many people with rosacea have this infection, but many with the infection do not have rosacea, so experts have so far been unable to prove that this is the true cause.

The final theory about rosacea is that it is caused by the way the body processes a protein called cathelicidin. Usually, this protein protects the skin from infection, but in those with rosacea, the body may process it differently so that it causes inflammation and redness.

How is Rosacea Treated?

Treatment focuses on the symptoms of rosacea, since it cannot be cure.  Both over-the-counter and prescription treatments are available.  Prescription treatment can include medications to reduce the redness like Mirvaso.  This type of treatment constricts the blood vessels and the effects are temporary. Other topical treatments last longer but don’t take effect for 3-6 weeks.  Oral antibiotics fight inflammation and bumps. Severe rosacea may be treated with isotretinoin, which is a strong acne drug.

Alternative treatments include laser therapy, dermabrasion, light therapy or electrosurgery.

Rosacea Prevention

Since the cause of rosacea isn’t fully understood, it is not possible to completely prevent rosacea. However, in most people with the condition, certain things cause it to flare up and worsen. To prevent this, it’s important to recognize these triggers and try to avoid them.

Triggers tend to be different for each person with rosacea, so keeping a diary over a number of weeks or months may help you to identify yours. Note down the severity of your rosacea day to day alongside the time, weather conditions, your activity and the foods you eat. You may be able to pick out patterns in the flare ups which could be your triggers.

Sun exposure and hot weather are very common rosacea triggers, as is emotional stress. For some, exercise brings about the redness, and in others, it is common after alcohol consumption. Certain skincare products and foods can also trigger flare ups.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
December 19, 2017