Rosacea is sometimes confused with other conditions because its signs and symptoms can appear so similar, and a professional diagnosis is essential. To make matters worse, patients often suffer from more than one skin disorder at once, and an NRS survey found that 77 percent of rosacea patients had been diagnosed with other skin conditions as well. Here are some of the most common disorders mistaken for rosacea.
Some of the most common signs of rosacea -- bumps and pimples -- are also the most common cause of confusion about the skin condition. Acne covers a broad range of symptoms that occur when pores on the skin become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Acne may appear as whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, small red bumps, and painful cysts. The bumps (papules) and pimples (pustules) of Subtype 2 (papulopustular) rosacea are often mistaken for acne, and the historical term “acne rosacea” reflects an early but now-disproven belief that the two conditions are related. The blackheads of acne do not occur with rosacea. The two conditions further differ in that acne is most common in teens, while rosacea generally occurs later in life. Also, acne can appear on the shoulders, neck, back and chest in addition to the face, but rosacea usually only affects the face.
The term dermatitis refers to itchy, red, or swollen skin caused by inflammation or irritation. The rash can begin to ooze, crust and flake if untreated. Unlike rosacea, which includes a specific collection of symptoms, dermatitis is a more general term that is often a symptom of other conditions. There are many different types of dermatitis, but the two most commonly confused with rosacea are seborrheic dermatitis and eczema.
Eczema is a type of dermatitis which can occur anywhere on the body. Caused by inflammation, eczema makes skin dry, itchy, red and cracked. It appears most commonly on the hands, neck, face, legs, and skin creases. It afflicts those of all ages, including infants (see photo).
Seborrheic dermatitis may be one of the most common skin conditions to occur at the same time as rosacea. It is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder, generally confined to areas where sebaceous (oil) glands are most prominent, including the face. Scaling and redness are the two dominant characteristics, and may be accompanied by a burning sensation. The most common sites on the face include the creases around the nose, the forehead, the inner eyebrows and the external ear canal. The upper eyelids and eyelid margins may be involved.
When psoriasis appears on the face, it may look similar to rosacea. Caused by an overproduction of skin cells, psoriasis is a common and chronic disease. Symptoms include red patches, silvery scales, dryness, itching, burning, thick nails and stiff joints. Unlike rosacea’s four subtypes, there are more than eight types of psoriasis depending on the location and extent of symptoms, and treatment options for psoriasis vary greatly. When psoriasis occurs on the face, it may appear similar to rosacea, but treatment options for psoriasis vary greatly. Psoriasis can be treated with topical steroids, retinoids, and sun exposure, among other things. In contrast, steroid creams and sun exposure can contribute to rosacea flare-ups.
Though it might not seem to belong on this list of primarily skin conditions, lupus erythematosus is sometimes mistaken for rosacea because of the butterfly-shaped rash it can cause on the cheeks and nose. Lupus is an inflammatory disease that can affect joints, kidneys, blood cells, the brain, heart, lungs and skin. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, chest pain, headache, facial rash, skin lesions and dry eyes. Because lupus is a more widespread disease that affects multiple systems of the body, blood and urine tests, chest x-rays, and kidney and liver assessments may be conducted to assess the condition and determine appropriate medical therapy and care.