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Ocular rosacea: What you need to know

Did you know this chronic skin condition can also cause eye irritation?

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Sep 28, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
Man Covering Eyes
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Sep 28, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Ocular rosacea is a subtype of rosacea—a chronic skin condition that causes facial redness and recurrent flushing. While the skin symptoms of rosacea are widely known, fewer people are familiar with the ocular—or eye—symptoms that may accompany this condition. 

When it comes to your skin, we believe knowledge is power. So here, we’ll dive into the causes, symptoms, and potential treatment options for ocular rosacea so you're better equipped to take action and improve your eye health if you’re dealing with this condition.

Here at Curology, we currently focus on the diagnosis and treatment of acne, rosacea, and anti-aging concerns. We do not treat many of the conditions mentioned in this article. This article is for information purposes.

What is ocular rosacea? 

Rosacea is a long-lasting, inflammatory skin condition characterized by facial redness and, at times, the appearance of acne-like bumps on your face. In some cases, rosacea may also affect the eyes. This condition is known as ocular rosacea.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, an individual may experience rosacea solely on the skin without any associated ocular symptoms or vice versa, in which ocular rosacea occurs without any accompanying skin symptoms. It’s also possible to have both forms of rosacea at the same time.¹

By understanding the various symptoms and potential triggers of rosacea, you can better manage your condition and seek appropriate treatments.

Symptoms 

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of ocular rosacea is crucial so you can get appropriate treatment and manage your condition effectively. 

If you have ocular rosacea, you may experience a range of symptoms, including:²

  • Burning, or watering eyes from inflammation and irritation. 

  • Feeling as though there is something stuck in your eye.

  • Redness and swelling on your eyelids and at the base of your eyelashes.

  • Clogged oily glands in eyelids.

  • The formation of a chalazion (typically a pain-free lump) or a stye (a painful, red bump) on your eyelids.

If you experience any of these signs, it's important to consult an eye care professional for a proper evaluation and customized treatment plan. Early intervention and consistent management can help alleviate discomfort and prevent ongoing complications.

What causes ocular rosacea? 

The exact cause of ocular rosacea isn’t known. However, research indicates it may be caused by immune system dysfunction, among other possibilities. Additionally, some potential triggers for a typical rosacea flare-up include consuming certain foods or drinks. 

Immune and vascular issues

Research shows that immune and vascular issues may play a significant role in contributing to ocular rosacea. Your immune system is responsible for defending against infections and diseases, and any problems in its operation can lead to other issues. 

Dysfunction and changes in blood vessels can further contribute to the development and progression of ocular rosacea. If blood vessels expand, it can lead to redness and other symptoms.³ 

Foods that cause flares

Research shows that certain foods or drinks can cause rosacea to flare up. Alcohol and spicy food are two of the most common triggers, but others such as tomatoes, chocolate, processed meat, or aged cheeses can also contribute to worsening symptoms.⁴ Keep in mind that triggers can vary from person to person, and not all individuals with ocular rosacea will experience flare-ups from the same foods. Identifying and avoiding your personal triggers can significantly help you manage and control your symptoms.

Getting treatment for ocular rosacea 

While there’s no cure for ocular rosacea, there are treatments and lifestyle changes you can implement to help manage your symptoms. These include taking preventative measures, prioritizing overall eye health, incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, and taking certain medications.

Take preventative measures

To help manage rosacea, it is important to identify and avoid triggers that can cause flare-ups. Consider steering clear of alcohol and other potential triggers to help reduce rosacea flares.⁵ Avoiding excessive sunlight and heat can also help reduce flare-ups.⁶ Staying away from certain cosmetics or soap-based cleansers can also help minimize potential irritation in those with rosacea.⁷ By recognizing and eliminating these potential triggers, you can better manage your rosacea and potentially associated ocular rosacea.

Prioritize your eye health 

Effectively managing ocular rosacea also involves addressing any possible associated conditions, such as chalazion, dry eye syndrome, glaucoma, blepharitis, and conjunctivitis. Receiving comprehensive treatment for both ocular rosacea and your related conditions can significantly improve your symptoms and overall eye health.⁸

Incorporate omega-3 fatty acids 

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for individuals with rosacea and dry eye symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids are also known as “the good fats,” found in salmon, certain nuts and seeds, some plant oils, and also supplements. One study found that rosacea patients experienced significant improvements in their dry eye symptoms after taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements for six months.⁹

Consider oral antibiotics and eye drops

Oral antibiotics and eye drops can be effective treatments for ocular rosacea under the guidance of a licensed healthcare provider. Research shows that oral doxycycline taken once daily for up to two months can significantly improve the symptoms of ocular rosacea.¹⁰ However, it may not be the best choice for everyone, and it’s important to consult your healthcare provider or ophthalmologist for prescription medications. 

Another treatment option is topical azithromycin, which has shown significant improvement in symptom reduction for ocular rosacea patients after one month of use.¹¹ Again, always discuss treatment options with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

When to see a healthcare provider 

It's important to consult a healthcare provider or eye doctor when experiencing irritation or other eye symptoms. Seeking prompt medical attention as soon as you notice any symptoms can help prevent a delayed diagnosis and is crucial for maintaining your overall eye health.¹²

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If you’re experiencing rosacea, our dermatology experts can help. They'll prescribe a personalized topical formula with active ingredients like azelaic acid, metronidazole, and ivermectin to help manage your rosacea. Start taking control of your skin health today. Try our custom rosacea treatment now to experience the difference of personalized skincare!

FAQs

Is ocular rosacea serious?

Ocular rosacea causes uncomfortable symptoms such as redness and itching. In some cases, rosacea can be associated with other eye conditions. One study suggests ocular comorbidities such as glaucoma, conjunctivitis, and dry eye syndrome are more prevalent among those with rosacea.¹³ If you suspect you have ocular rosacea, it’s important to see an ophthalmologist or other healthcare provider for additional evaluated and advice.

How do you know if you have rosacea in the eyes?

You may suspect you’re experiencing ocular rosacea if you have rosacea and experience red, irritated eyes, dryness, burning, or blurred vision. However, you can’t know for sure unless you get a proper diagnosis. If you have any symptoms, consult an eye specialist for accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Is ocular rosacea an autoimmune disease?

While the exact cause of rosacea remains uncertain, various factors, including immune system dysfunction, may be involved.¹⁴ According to one study, there is evidence of a link between autoimmune conditions and rosacea. The study found that women with rosacea are more likely to have another autoimmune disease.¹⁵

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ocular Rosacea. (2022, September 9)

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ocular Rosacea. Ibid.

  3. Rodrigues-Braz D., et al. Cutaneous and ocular rosacea: Common and specific physiopathogenic mechanisms and study models. Molecular Vision. (2021, May 13)

  4. Searle T., et al. Rosacea and Diet: What is New in 2021? Journal of Clinical Aesthetics and Dermatology. (December 2021)

  5. Searle T., et al. Rosacea and Diet: What is New in 2021? Journal of Clinical Aesthetics and Dermatology. Ibid.

  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ocular Rosacea. Ibid.

  7. Del Rosso JQ, Baum EW. Comprehensive medical management of rosacea: an interim study report and literature review. Journal of Clinical Aesthetics and Dermatology. (May 2008)

  8. Woo YR., et al. Ocular Comorbidities in Rosacea: A Case-Control Study Based on Seven Institutions. Journal of Clinical Medicine. (2021, Jun 29)

  9. Bhargava R., et al. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Omega 3 Fatty Acids in Rosacea Patients with Dry Eye Symptoms. Current Eye Research. (October 2016)

  10. Pfeffer I., et al. Treatment of ocular rosacea with 40 mg doxycycline in a slow release form. Journal of the German Society of Dermatology. (November 2011)

  11. Mantelli F., et al. Topical azithromycin as a novel treatment for ocular rosacea. Ocular Immunology and Inflammation. (October 2013)

  12. López-Valverde G.,et al. Therapeutical Management for Ocular Rosacea. Case Reports in Ophthalmology. (2016, May 2)

  13. Woo YR.,et al. Ocular Comorbidities in Rosacea: A Case-Control Study Based on Seven Institutions. Journal of Clinical Medicine. (2021, Jun 29)

  14. Rodrigues-Braz D., et al. Cutaneous and ocular rosacea: Common and specific physiopathogenic mechanisms and study models. Molecular Vision. (2021, May 13)

  15. Egeberg A., et al. Clustering of autoimmune diseases in patients with rosacea. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (April 2016)

Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

*Cancel at anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Erin Pate Nurse Practitioner, NP-C

Erin Pate, NP-C

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