Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(8):1608

What is rosacea?

Rosacea (say: “rose-ay-she-ah”) is a disease that affects the skin on the face. It often begins as redness that looks like a blush across the nose, cheeks, chin, or forehead. As time goes on, red pimples and pus-filled bumps may appear. Some people notice small blood vessels across their nose and cheeks. In some people, the skin of the nose becomes red and thick. The nose problem is called rhinophyma (say “rye-no-fie-muh”). Rosacea can affect the eyes. It may irritate and inflame the eyelids and the white part of the eye. This is called conjunctivitis.

What causes rosacea and who gets it?

No one knows the cause of rosacea. It may have more than one cause. Rosacea tends to run in fair-skinned families and tends to occur in people who blush easily. Symptoms usually begin in adults between 30 and 50 years of age. Women are more likely to get rosacea on the cheeks and chin, but men are more likely to get rhinophyma. Rosacea tends to be worse in men.

Can rosacea be cured?

No, but it can be treated. Rosacea is a condition that lasts for a long time. In most people, it tends to get better for awhile and then get worse again (flare up). Rosacea may get much worse over time if it is not treated. Treatment controls the symptoms and makes your skin look better.

How is rosacea treated?

The kind of medicine your doctor wants you to use depends on how your skin looks. Treatment generally works best for the pimples and bumps of rosacea. The redness of the skin is harder to treat. Medicines used to treat rosacea include antibiotics. Your doctor may want you to use an oral antibiotic to start with and to follow that with an antibiotic gel or cream called metronidazole (one brand name: MetroGel) that you put on your skin.

It may take up to two months of treatment before the skin looks better. If your skin gets better, you can use less of the oral antibiotic or maybe even stop taking it. You can keep using the gel. It is hard to know how long you will need treatment for rosacea. Each person's skin is different, and your doctor may want to change your treatment after awhile.

Surgery can fix rhinophyma. A doctor might remove enlarged blood vessels on your face with a fine electric needle or laser surgery.

What can I do to help my rosacea get better?

Certain things seem to make rosacea worse. These include sun exposure, hot drinks, alcohol, spicy foods, strenuous exercise, stress, and very hot and cold temperatures. If these things make your rosacea worse, you may want to avoid them as much as possible.

Gentle skin care is best. Your doctor may want you to use a mild soap and a moisturizer, and use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on a regular basis when you are outside.

Where can I get more information?

  • National Rosacea Society

  • Telephone: 1-888-662-5874

  • Web

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