Introduction 

Rosacea is a common but poorly understood long-term skin condition that mainly affects the face.

Symptoms often begin with episodes of flushing (where the skin turns red for a short period), but other symptoms can develop as the condition progresses, such as:

  • burning and stinging sensations
  • permanent redness
  • spots (papules and pustules)
  • small blood vessels in the skin becoming visible

Rosacea is a relapsing condition, which means there are periods when symptoms are particularly bad, followed by periods when the condition is less severe.

Many of the symptoms of rosacea can be controlled to a degree with treatment. But the changes to your physical appearance that may occur as a result of the condition can still have a significant psychological and social impact, affecting how you feel about yourself and how you interact with others.

Read more about the symptoms of rosacea and the complications of rosacea.

Seeking 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.

There is no specific test for rosacea, but your GP will often be able to diagnosis the condition by examining your skin, asking about your symptoms and asking about possible triggers you may have.

In some circumstances, your GP may arrange further tests, such as a blood test or skin biopsy (where a small scraping of skin is removed and examined), to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as lupus or the menopause.

What causes rosacea?

The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, although a number of possible factors have been suggested, including abnormalities in the blood vessels of the face and a reaction to microscopic mites commonly found on the face.

Although they are not thought to be direct causes of the condition, several triggers have been identified that may make rosacea worse. These include:

  • exposure to sunlight
  • stress
  • strenuous exercise
  • hot or cold weather
  • hot drinks
  • alcohol and caffeine
  • certain foods, such as spicy foods

Read more about the causes of rosacea.

Who is affected?

Rosacea appears to be quite common, with some estimates suggesting up to 1 in 10 people may have it. Around 1 in every 600 people in the UK are diagnosed with the condition each year.

It most commonly affects people with fair skin, but can also occur in people of Asian and African origin.

Rosacea occurs in both men and women, but tends to be more common in women. Most cases are first diagnosed in people aged 30 to 50.

How rosacea is treated

There is no currently no known cure for rosacea, but treatment can help control the symptoms. 

Long-term treatment will usually be necessary, although there may be periods where your symptoms improve and you can stop treatment temporarily.

For most people, treatment will involve a combination of self-help measures and medication, such as:

  • avoiding known triggers – for example, avoiding drinks containing alcohol or caffeine
  • creams and gels – medications applied directly to the skin to reduce spots and redness
  • oral medications – tablets or capsules that can help clear up more severe spots, such as oral antibiotics

In some cases, procedures such as laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment may be helpful. These involve beams of light being aimed at the visible blood vessels in the skin to shrink them and make them less visible.

Read more about treating rosacea and self-help measures for rosacea.

Rosacea

Rosacea is a common but poorly understood long-term skin condition that mainly affects the face. It most commonly affects fair-skinned people from northern Europe and is estimated to affect up to one in 10 people. An expert explains what rosacea is, the symptoms to look out for and the various treatments.

Media last reviewed: 13/06/2014

Next review due: 13/06/2016

Page last reviewed: 10/07/2014

Next review due: 10/07/2016