Winter conditions may be particularly harsh on patients with ocular rosacea, according to Dr. Guy Webster, associate professor of dermatology at Thomas Jefferson University Medical College in Philadelphia. He noted that eye symptoms of rosacea seem to worsen during this season, perhaps because of the frequent gusty winds and cold temperatures.
While rosacea is usually thought of as a disorder of the facial skin, the eyes also may be affected in many cases. Ocular rosacea may sometimes provide the first telltale clue that facial rosacea is present. About 20 percent of patients develop ocular symptoms before facial symptoms, according to some reports, and ocular rosacea patients are often referred to dermatologists by their ophthalmologists. As a matter of fact, as many as 50 percent of rosacea patients also have some ocular involvement.1
The chilly blasts of winter winds may bring on the watery discharge that may be a symptom of ocular rosacea, as well as increased eye irritation and aggravation of other symptoms.
Additional signs of ocular rosacea may include eyes that feel dry or gritty, a bloodshot appearance or the presence of a stye. "Just about anybody who gets styes has rosacea or is eventually likely to develop the condition," Dr. Webster said.
Cold weather can affect people with facial rosacea as well. In a survey by the National Rosacea Society to determine environmental influences that may bring on a facial flare-up, cold weather was reported to affect 36 percent of the rosacea sufferers who responded.
Since the weather can be a frequent rosacea tripwire in the winter, it is important to be prepared to counter its effects. For patients with ocular symptoms, Dr. Webster recommends minimizing time outdoors and protecting the eyes against icy blasts with glasses or sunglasses.
Sufferers with facial as well as ocular rosacea will benefit from covering up with a scarf, or perhaps wearing a ski mask to guard against the cold. In addition, using a moisturizer daily can protect the skin from the naturally drying effects of cold and wind.
Left untreated, ocular rosacea may lead to plugging of the tear glands, inflammation, scarring and even vision loss in the most severe cases. A type of cyst called a chalazion, which results from plugging of the glands under the eyelids that help keep the eyes lubricated, is especially common, Dr. Webster said.
Treatment for ocular rosacea typically is a combination of therapies tailored to the individual case. Therapy may include a combination of local and systemic treatments, as well as cleansing and tearing agents, all of which may be adjusted over time.
Browning DJ, Proia AD: Ocular rosacea. Survey of Ophthalmology. 1986;31:145-158.