BARRINGTON, Illinois (January 25, 2022) — A pair of new studies help establish the relative prevalence of signs and symptoms of the eyes of rosacea patients (ocular rosacea), as well as the importance of medical therapy.
“Although rosacea is generally thought of as a skin disease, research has shown that for the great majority of rosacea patients the eyes may also affected,” said Dr. Mark Mannis, chair of ophthalmology at the University of California-Davis and a member of the National Rosacea Society's medical advisory board. “In moderate to severe cases, treatment by an ophthalmologist may be especially necessary to prevent loss of visual acuity.”
Ocular rosacea signs and symptoms may include itching, burning and stinging; inflamed eyelids and styes (blepharitis); red or bloodshot eyes (conjunctivitis); the feeling that something is in the eye (foreign body sensation); and the development of visible blood vessels (telangiectasia) on the eyelids or whites of the eyes. In some patients the meibomian glands, which secrete an oil that helps tears keep the eye moistened, become clogged, causing tears to break down faster and leading to dry eye. As the condition worsens the cornea may become damaged, leading to reduced visual clarity.
A recent study published in International Ophthalmology aimed to identify which ocular signs and symptoms were most associated with rosacea, and the best methods for diagnosis. The researchers evaluated the right eyes of 76 rosacea patients and 113 people with no systemic or eye disorders. The examinations encompassed several methods, including slit-lamp microscope (a common device used in most eye exams), technology known as optical coherence tomography (OCT)-assisted meibography to analyze meibomian gland function, and a standardized questionnaire about eye disease.
They found that foreign body sensation and itching were about twice as prevalent in rosacea patients than in the healthy control subjects (53.9% vs. 24.8% and 35.5% vs. 17.7%, respectively), dryness was more than four times as common (46.1% vs 10.6%), and meibomian gland dysfunction was about two-thirds more common (52.6% vs. 31%). However, conjunctival telangiectasia — blood vessels on the whites of the eyes — was found to occur overwhelmingly in the rosacea patients alone (26.3% vs 1.8%).
The researchers therefore recommended that eye doctors use detailed slit-lamp examinations to detect conjunctival telangiectasia, especially in cases of persistent dry eye symptoms. They also noted that OCT-assisted meibography may be important for identifying and evaluating meibomian gland dysfunction.
A recent study in Argentina illustrated the importance of treating ocular rosacea promptly. The eyes of 51 rosacea patients were examined by researchers, and 38 (74.5%) had signs of eye involvement. Of these, all had erythema and telangiectasia on the eyelid margin, and all but one had meibomian gland dysfunction. Fifteen suffered decreased visual acuity due to rosacea-related complications, including scarring and blood vessels on the cornea.
“We found a significant association between the severity of ocular findings, assessed as a diminished visual acuity due to rosacea corneal involvement,” and the presence of rosacea symptoms of the skin, including excess tissue (rhinophyma) and bumps and pimples (papules and pustules), the investigators reported.
The most common therapies given to the ocular rosacea patients in the study were artificial tears, oral doxycycline, corticosteroid-antibiotic ointment, and a lid hygiene regimen. However, three patients required corneal transplants to restore their vision. The researchers recommended that special attention be paid to worsening eye symptoms during flare-ups of rosacea on the skin, and that patients should be referred to an ophthalmologist for treatment when vision is threatened.
Rosacea is a chronic disorder of the facial skin with various potential signs and symptoms, often characterized by flare-ups and remissions. It typically begins at any time after age 30 as a flushing or redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead that may come and go. Over time, the redness tends to become ruddier and more persistent, and small blood vessels may appear. Without treatment, bumps and pimples often develop, and in severe cases the nose may become swollen from excess tissue. In more than half of patients, the eyes may also affected, feeling irritated and appearing watery or bloodshot.
Anyone who suspects they may have rosacea is urged to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and individualized therapy, and referral to an ophthalmologist when appropriate.
About the National Rosacea Society
The National Rosacea Society is the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of the estimated 16 million Americans who suffer from this widespread but poorly understood disorder. Its mission is to raise awareness of rosacea, provide public health information on the disorder and support medical research that may lead to improvements in its management, prevention and potential cure. More information may be found online at rosacea.org.
1. Ozturk T, Kayabasi M, Ozbagcivan O, Ayhan Z, Utine CA. Common ocular findings in patients with acne rosacea. Int Ophthalmol 2021 Nov 2. doi: 10.1007/s10792-021-02093-5. Epub ahead of print.
2. Saá FL, Cremona F, Chiaradia P. Association between skin findings and ocular signs in rosacea. Turk J Ophthalmol 2021 Dec 28;51(6):338-343. doi: 10.4274/tjo.galenos.2021.05031