When to See a Doctor About Rosacea

Although the signs and symptoms of rosacea can develop in many ways, it typically starts any time after age 30 as a facial redness that may resemble a sunburn or inexplicable blush on the cheeks, nose or chin that comes and goes. Unfortunately, it happens again and again, becoming ruddier and lasting longer each time, and eventually visible blood vessels may appear. Without treatment, bumps and pimples often develop, growing more extensive over time, and in severe cases — especially in men — the nose may become swollen and enlarged from excess tissue. In some people, the eyes are also affected, feeling irritated or appearing watery or bloodshot.

While the use of makeup may camouflage the early signs of the disorder, it will have no effect on the underlying disease process – and over-the-counter acne remedies can make it worse.

The only reliable way to address this chronic medical disorder is to see a dermatologist, who can evaluate your condition and work with you to develop a management program that works best for your individual case. The plan may include a combination of prescription medications, skin-care products, trigger avoidance and other options.

If you suspect you may have rosacea, don't ignore your symptoms and hope they go away. Individuals with any of the following warning signs of rosacea are urged to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and appropriate medical care before their condition grows increasingly severe.

Warning Signs of Rosacea

  • Redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead. These are the classic locations for rosacea's early symptoms to appear. Over time, the redness tends to become ruddier and more persistent. Even with mild redness, it's especially important to get a diagnosis from a physician, as there are other diseases for which facial redness is a symptom, including lupus erythematosus or carcinoid syndrome.

  • Small visible blood vessels on the face. While other signs and symptoms can be treated with prescription medications, these tiny blood vessels may be painlessly reduced or removed with lasers or intense pulsed light therapy.

  • Bumps or pimples on the face. While they may resemble acne, the papules and pustules of rosacea do not include blackheads and are generally limited to the face. Effective medical therapy is available for these rosacea symptoms, while over-the-counter acne remedies don't work for rosacea and may make it worse.

  • Watery or irritated eyes. This may be a sign of ocular rosacea, whose symptoms may also include burning or stinging or a gritty sensation. Swollen eyelids and styes are also common. Since most people do not associate eye discomfort with a skin disorder and the symptoms are usually mild, many rosacea patients may not make the connection. Severe ocular rosacea, however, can pose significant consequences if left untreated, including corneal damage.

Visiting a dermatologist is easy, so make an appointment today. See the Management Options section to learn what to tell your physician and about what your treatment options may be. For help finding a doctor in your area, visit the Physician Finder.

Once you've received a diagnosis and treatment regimen, see What to do Now for guidance on next steps.