Symptoms of rosacea 

Rosacea causes a range of symptoms, although not everyone will experience them all.

Most people with rosacea have periods when their symptoms are particularly troublesome, followed by periods where their symptoms are less so.

Main symptoms

The following are the main symptoms of rosacea.

Flushing

Flushing is when your skin turns red for a short period – usually a few minutes. It tends to mainly affect the face, although it can spread to your neck and chest. In some cases, the redness may be accompanied by an unpleasant feeling of heat.

In rosacea, flushing is often caused by a certain trigger, such as sun exposure, hot drinks or exercise. See causes of rosacea for more information about possible triggers.

Persistent facial redness

Persistent facial redness, known as erythema, is like a blush or a patch of sunburn that does not go away, or the sort of blotchy skin often associated with drinking too much alcohol.

This can be upsetting for people with rosacea as people can mistakenly assume they are heavy drinkers.

The redness usually affects the cheeks, nose and chin, but may spread to other areas such as the forehead, neck and chest.

Visible blood vessels

Over time, the blood vessels in the skin may become permanently dilated (widened) and visible. The medical name for visible blood vessels is telangiectasia.

Papules and pustules

If you have rosacea, you may develop papules (round red bumps that rise from your skin) and pustules (pus-filled swellings).

These spots appear on your face and are similar to acne. Rosacea used to be called acne rosacea, but the two conditions are quite different.

In rosacea, there are no blackheads (small blocked pores) and the skin is not greasy, but dry and peeling. Rosacea spots also do not cause scarring.

Thickened skin

In the most serious cases of rosacea, the skin can thicken and form excess tissue, usually around the nose. This causes the nose to take on a large, bulbous appearance. This is known as rhinophyma.

Rhinophyma is an uncommon, severe symptom of rosacea and takes several years to develop. It tends to affect more men with rosacea than women.

Eye problems

In addition to skin problems, many people with rosacea also experience symptoms that affect their eyes. This is known as ocular rosacea.

Symptoms of ocular rosacea can include:

  • feeling like there is something in your eyes
  • dry eyes
  • irritated and bloodshot eyes
  • inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis)

In some cases, ocular rosacea can cause the cornea (the transparent layer at the front of the eye) to become inflamed, causing symptoms such as eye pain, blurred vision and sensitivity to light (photophobia).

Read about the complications of rosacea for more information.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms associated with rosacea include:

  • sensitive skin (burning, itching, stinging, pain)
  • dry, rough skin
  • raised red patches (plaques) on your skin
  • facial swelling (lymphoedema)
  • sensitive skin

Permanent damage to the face, such as scarring, almost never occurs in rosacea.

When to seek medical advice

You should see your GP if you have persistent symptoms that could be caused by rosacea, as early treatment can help stop the condition getting worse.

If you develop eye pain, blurred vision or sensitivity to light, you should contact your GP immediately because your sight may be at risk if you don't receive prompt treatment.

If you cannot contact your GP, visit your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.

Rosacea is a common skin condition that mainly affects the face, causing redness and spots 

Page last reviewed: 10/07/2014

Next review due: 10/07/2016