Rosacea and its Treatment

What is rosacea?

Rosacea (say "rose-ay-shah") 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 also notice small blood vessels across their nose and cheeks. In some people, the skin of the nose may become red and thick. This is called rhinophyma (say "rye-no-fie-muh"). Rosacea can also 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. There may not be just 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 the ages of 30 and 60. Women are more likely to get rosacea on the cheeks and chin, but men are more likely to get rhinophyma. Rosacea tends to be more severe in men.

Can rosacea be cured?

No, but it can be treated. Rosacea is a condition that lasts for a long period of time. For most people it tends to get better and then get worse (flare up). Rosacea may get worse over time if it is not treated. Treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms and making your skin look better.

How is rosacea treated?

The type of medicine your doctor recommends will depend on how your skin looks. Treatment generally works best at improving the pimples and bumps of rosacea. The redness of the skin is harder to treat. Medicines used to treat rosacea include antibiotics, which can be applied to the skin or taken as pills. Your doctor may recommend an oral antibiotic to start with and follow that with an antibiotic gel or cream called metronidazole (one brand name: MetroGel) that you apply to your skin.

It may take up to 2 months of treatment before the skin looks better. As your skin improves, the amount of oral antibiotic you take can often be cut down or stopped. Treatment with the gel may continue. 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 adjust your treatment.

Surgery may be used to correct rhinophyma. Enlarged blood vessels on your face can sometimes be removed by using a fine electric needle or with 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 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, and your doctor may recommend that you use a mild soap and a moisturizer. It is also a good idea to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on a regular basis.

More Information

For more information talk to your doctor.

Other Organizations

  • National Rosacea Society
    800 S. Northwest Highway, Suite 200 
    Barrington, IL 60010 
    888-NO-BLUSH (888-662-5874) 


Written by editorial staff.

American Academy of Family Physicians

Reviewed/Updated: 07/05
Created: 12/94