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Rosacea

Skin care experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center specialize in the latest advancements to treat rosacea, a common skin condition. Our dermatologists and cosmetic and plastic surgeons help patients achieve a natural appearance with medications and procedures to minimize symptoms. With advanced training and extensive expertise, we help patients look and feel better.

Specialized Treatment for Rosacea

Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes redness and visible blood vessels on the face. It can also produce small, red, pus-filled bumps that resemble acne, or pimples. Rosacea’s signs and symptoms can come and go during periods of weeks to months. Although there's no cure for rosacea, treatments can control and reduce its effects.

At UT Southwestern, specialists in dermatology, cosmetic surgery, and plastic surgery provide advanced treatments to manage rosacea. We are involved in the latest research to improve treatment and bring our patients the best possible outcomes.

Causes and Risk Factors of Rosacea

Although the exact cause is unknown, rosacea typically affects people with these characteristics:

  • Age: Rosacea is typically diagnosed between age 30 and 50.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop the condition than men.
  • Complexion: Fair-skinned people are more likely to have rosacea.
  • Ethnicity: People with an Irish, English, Scottish, Scandinavian, or Eastern European racial background are at a higher risk.
  • Family history: People with family members who have had severe acne or rosacea are at a higher risk.
  • Personal history: People who have had severe acne, such as with cysts or nodules, are more likely to develop rosacea.

Certain factors can trigger or aggravate rosacea, such as:

  • Hot beverages or spicy foods
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Temperature extremes
  • Sunlight or wind
  • Emotions
  • Exercise
  • Cosmetics
  • Drugs that dilate blood vessels, such as some blood pressure medications

Types of Rosacea

The main types of rosacea are:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic: Redness and flushed skin with visible blood vessels
  • Papulopustular: Redness and swelling with acne-like bumps (pustules)
  • Phymatous: Thickened skin with a bumpy texture
  • Ocular: Red, irritated eyes; swollen eyelids; and bumps that look like sties

Symptoms of Rosacea

Rosacea can resemble acne, an allergic reaction, or other skin problems. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Facial redness, especially in the middle of the face
  • Spider-like blood vessels (telangiectasia) on the face, especially on the nose and cheeks
  • Red or enlarged nose
  • Acne-like skin sores that can ooze or crust
  • Burning or stinging feeling in the face
  • Eye irritation, redness, swelling, or dryness

Diagnosing Rosacea

Our skilled dermatologists and cosmetic and plastic surgeons conduct a thorough evaluation, which includes a:

  • Physical exam
  • Discussion of personal and family medical history
  • Discussion of symptoms

We can often confirm a diagnosis of rosacea with this information. In some cases, we might recommend tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, or lupus. For patients whose eyes are affected, we might coordinate care with an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) at UT Southwestern.

Treatment for Rosacea

Although rosacea has no cure, treatment can help relieve the signs, provide comfort, and prevent complications. People usually need treatment on an ongoing basis, depending on the type and severity of their symptoms. 

We often use a combination of topical (applied to the skin) treatments and oral medications (pills) to treat rosacea. These include:

  • Creams or gels, such as brimonidine to reduce redness, and azelaic acid or metronidazole to reduce pimples in mild rosacea
  • Oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline, to reduce inflammation for moderate to severe rosacea with bumps and pustules
  • Isotretinoin (Accutane) for people with severe rosacea that does not improve with other medications

Our cosmetic and plastic surgeons offer procedures to treat redness and visible blood vessels, such as:

  • Laser therapy using erbium-YAG, intense pulsed light (IPL), and green light (532nm) laser technology for skin resurfacing
  • Dermabrasion using a small, rotating device to remove the top layers of skin to resurface the skin

If left untreated, rosacea can become severe and lead to rhinophyma, a rare skin disorder that causes the nose to enlarge and take on a bulbous shape. 

Self-Care for Rosacea

Our skin care specialists work with patients to help them identify triggers that cause flare-ups or make symptoms worse. Common triggers to consider include:

  • Hot baths or showers
  • Wind or cold weather
  • Certain cosmetics or hair products
  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Spicy foods
  • Sunlight or heat

In addition to avoiding triggers, we also recommend:

  • Protecting the face by wearing sunscreen and hats in hot, sunny weather and scarves or ski masks in cold, windy weather
  • Treating the skin gently by carefully washing with a mild cleanser, using moisturizer frequently, and not touching or rubbing the face
  • Applying makeup, such as green-tinted foundation or powder, to reduce redness

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