Overview

Rosacea (roe-ZAY-she-uh) is a common skin condition that causes redness and visible blood vessels in your face. It may also produce small, red, pus-filled bumps. These signs and symptoms may flare up for weeks to months and then go away for a while. Rosacea can be mistaken for acne, other skin problems or natural ruddiness.

Rosacea can affect anyone. But it's most common in middle-aged women who have light skin. There's no cure for rosacea, but treatment can control and reduce the signs and symptoms.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of rosacea include:

  • Facial redness. Rosacea usually causes a persistent redness in the central part of your face. Small blood vessels on your nose and cheeks often swell and become visible.
  • Swollen, red bumps. Many people with rosacea also develop pimples on their face that resemble acne. These bumps sometimes contain pus. Your skin may feel hot and tender.
  • Eye problems. Many people with rosacea also experience dry, irritated, swollen eyes and red, swollen eyelids. This is known as ocular rosacea. In some people, the eye symptoms precede the skin symptoms.
  • Enlarged nose. Over time, rosacea can thicken the skin on the nose, causing the nose to appear bulbous (rhinophyma). This occurs more often in men than in women.

When to see a doctor

If you experience persistent redness of your face, see your doctor or a skin specialist (dermatologist) for a diagnosis and proper treatment.

Causes

The cause of rosacea is unknown, but it could be due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Rosacea is not caused by poor hygiene.

A number of factors can trigger flare-ups, including:

  • Hot drinks and spicy foods
  • Red wine and other alcoholic beverages
  • Temperature extremes
  • Sunlight or wind
  • Emotions
  • Exercise
  • Drugs that dilate blood vessels, including some blood pressure medications
  • Various cosmetic products

Risk factors

Anyone can develop rosacea. But you may be more likely to develop it if you:

  • Are female
  • Have light skin, particularly if it has been damaged by the sun
  • Are over age 30
  • Smoke
  • Have a family history of rosacea

Complications

Over time, the oil glands (sebaceous glands) in your nose and sometimes your cheeks become enlarged, resulting in a buildup of tissue on and around your nose — a condition called rhinophyma (rie-no-FIE-muh). This complication is much more common in men and develops slowly over a period of years.