Rosacea is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes facial flushing, redness and rash.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a non-infectious skin condition, that can come and go as flare-ups – when your face is red and flushed, with lumps and spots that can become infected.

Rosacea usually affects people over 30, especially if you have fair skin. You’re more likely to have it if you’re a woman, although it can be more severe in men who do get it.

There are four types. Your GP will be able to tell you which type you’ve got. In some cases, it can affect you psychologically as well as physically.

Rosacea can sometimes be treated by making lifestyle changes. But if it doesn’t improve, your GP may prescribe cream or pills to clear it up.

How to tell if you have rosacea

You may find that you’re blushing more often than usual. Over time, the skin on your face may feel:

  • Hot and sore
  • Thicker
  • Redder
  • Sensitive
  • Spotty

You may also see obvious blood vessels.

In severe rosacea, your nose can also become red and swollen, or bulbous. It’s known as rosacea nose and is more common in men.

Rosacea might also affect your eyes. This is called ocular rosacea. They may become dry, irritated or bloodshot. Left untreated, it can cause permanent blurred vision.

If you’re worried about your symptoms, especially if they affect your eyes, arrange to see your GP as soon as possible.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Diagnosis and tests for rosacea

In most cases, your GP will be able to diagnose rosacea by examining your skin. They’ll rule out other common skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.

If your eyes are affected, your GP may refer you to an ophthalmologist, who specialises in eye problems.

In some cases, they may refer you to a consultant dermatologist, who specialises in diagnosing and treating skin conditions. You might have a blood test or a biopsy (where a tiny sample of skin is taken for analysis). This is to check for other conditions such as pityriasis, the menopause or lupus.

Causes of rosacea

It’s not always possible to know what causes rosacea. It may be to do with your immune system or your lifestyle, and it can run in families. Some things can trigger it or make it worse. These include:

  • Environmental factors such as being out in the sun, or being very hot or cold
  • Feeling stressed
  • Exercise
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Alcohol and hot drinks

They may also be caused by demodex mites. These mites are present on most people’s skin but usually don’t cause any symptoms. However, people with rosacea have a higher number on their skin, so it's thought they may cause or contribute to rosacea symptoms.

Common treatments for rosacea

Rosacea can’t be cured but it can be treated. Your GP might suggest some lifestyle changes, such as cutting out alcohol or spicy foods and avoiding harsh or perfumed products on your skin.

They may also prescribe rosacea cream to put on the sore areas. It can take up to eight weeks for the cream to work.

You may also need to take antibiotics or other medication to help reduce the inflammation.

It’s also a good idea to use a high protection sun screen (SPF 30+) when you’re out in the sun and avoid perfumed cosmetics.

If your nose has become swollen, your GP may refer you to a consultant dermatologist or to a plastic surgeon who specialises in repairing or reconstructing the face.