Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition in which visible patchy redness appears on the face.

Rosacea is a common inflammatory condition of the skin of the face that causes redness.

Rosacea is a common inflammatory condition of the skin of the face that causes redness.

What Is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition affecting adults in which visible redness on the face occurs. Because it affects adults and frequently coexists with and is mistaken for teenage acne, rosacea is sometimes called adult acne. However, this term is misleading because rosacea has little to do with acne * . The only commonality between rosacea and acne is its appearance.

In 2015 it was estimated that the condition afflicted about 45 million people worldwide and more than 13 million people in the United States. Most people with rosacea are adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years, but people of all ages can have it. Rosacea affects primarily fair-skinned Caucasians of Northern European descent, and more women get rosacea than men, although men usually have more severe signs of the disease. There is no cure for rosacea, but there are treatments that diminish the signs and symptoms of the condition.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Rosacea?

The visible signs of rosacea vary widely among individuals; however, they commonly include the following primary symptoms:

Secondary symptoms include:

Rosacea is often characterized by cycles of flare-ups and remissions. In people in whom rosacea is severe, the symptoms occur in four main phases. First, the condition begins with a tendency to blush easily. Thereafter, redness on the central portion of the face appears, especially around the nose. This phase is sometimes called the pre-rosacea phase. Superficial blood vessels are likely to become dilated.

In the second phase, called the vascular rosacea phase, symptoms and visible signs worsen. Dilated blood vessels become more enlarged and more visible. Because of these semi-permanently enlarged blood vessels, the nose and surrounding portions of the face begin to look larger than normal. Rashes on the head and the ears and oily skin are more likely.

Inflammatory rosacea, the third phase, is marked by the appearance of small, red bumps, some of them pus-filled, across the cheeks, chin, forehead, and nose. Thickening of the facial skin also develops, along with other surface irregularities and enlargements.

Phase four occurs when the inner eyelids become inflamed, swollen, or appear scaly. This appearance results in a burning sensation around the eyes, which often appear red. Tearing may also occur. The severest cases may include eye damage and loss of vision.

What Are the Causes of Rosacea?

As of 2015, the cause of rosacea was unknown. However, some professionals thought the condition was probably a result of complex environmental and hereditary factors. It was theorized that rosacea may be brought on by the overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in the gastrointestinal * tract. This would explain why rosacea usually gets better with the use of certain antibiotics. It was also suggested that mites living within hair follicles * and excessive exposure to sunlight might contribute to the problem. It was also proposed that rosacea may be a disorder of facial capillaries, probably inherited.

How Is Rosacea Treated?

One treatment plan is not suitable for all patients because symptoms widely vary. Therefore, a combination of treatments is preferred over a single plan. The following medicinal options are available to treat rosacea:

The doses of medications and durations of drug regimens depend on the severity of the rosacea. In most cases, drugs help to alleviate symptoms within four to eight weeks. Usually, treatment is continued for one to two years (or longer) after the diagnosis is made. Often treatment must continue throughout the life of the patient.

In some severe cases of rosacea, the blood vessels of the face become permanently enlarged and reddened. Low-level light therapies and photorejuvenation are used sometimes to treat rosacea. Surgical options include laser surgery, cryosurgery, and electrosurgery. All three surgery types can make improvements in an enlarged nose, while laser surgery and electrosurgery can eliminate enlarged blood vessels.

Did You Know?

People of all races and nationalities can get rosacea, but fair-skinned individuals are more prone to it. The U.S. comedian and actor W. C. Fields (1880–1946), who was popular in the first half of the 20th century, was known for his bulbous nose, which was attributed to his fondness for alcoholic beverages. His enlarged, red nose, however, was the result of something called rhinophyma, appearing in advanced cases of rosacea.

Bill Clinton (b. 1946), the 42nd president of the United States, suffers from rosacea. Princess Diana of Wales (1961–1997) suffered from the condition, as does her son Prince Harry of Wales (b. 1984).

What Strategies Reduce the Symptoms of Rosacea?

Various practices can minimize the symptoms of rosacea. These include the following:

See also Skin Conditions: Overview


Books and Articles

Bowser, Alison. Acne and Rosacea: The Complete Guide. London: Random House UK, 2010.

D'Ardenne, Kimberlee. “Genetic Basis of Rosacea Identified by Researchers.” Stanford Medicine. March 12, 2015. (accessed August 12, 2015).


American Academy of Dermatology. “Rosacea.”—t/rosacea (accessed November 16, 2015).

MedlinePlus. “Rosacea.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. (accessed August 12, 2015).


American Academy of Dermatology. 930 E. Woodfield Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173. Toll-free: 866-503-7546. Website: (accessed August 12, 2015).

National Rosacea Society. 196 James St., Barrington, IL 60010. Tollfree: 800-662-5874. Website: (accessed August 12, 2015).

* acne (AK-nee) is a condition in which pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and sometimes deeper lumps occur on the skin.

* gastrointestinal (gas-tro-in-TEStih-nuhl) means pertaining to the organs of the digestive system, the system that processes food. It includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, colon, and rectum and other organs involved in digestion, including the liver and pancreas.

* follicles are tiny pits in the skin from which hair grows.

Disclaimer:   This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.

(MLA 8th Edition)