Rosacea is a chronic condition that can cause skin inflammation, particularly around the face. Beyond causing long-term skin-related symptoms, such as facial redness, rosacea frequently causes eye problems. Ocular rosacea can cause a range of eye-related symptoms, from itchiness to extreme light sensitivity, and can vary in severity depending on how well the underlying rosacea is controlled. Continue reading to learn more about rosacea, and how this skin condition can affect ocular health.
What is Rosacea?
Rosacea is a relatively common inflammatory skin condition that most frequently affects fair-skinned middle-aged individuals. Those affected by rosacea will notice chronic symptoms such as facial redness, small bumps on the skin, visible facial blood vessels, and in some cases a bulbous, enlarged nose. The exact cause of rosacea is not well understood, and currently there is no cure for the condition. However, your dermatologist may choose to treat your rosacea and lessen your symptoms with prescription antibiotics or topical skin treatments. Additionally, avoiding certain flair-up triggers, like sun overexposure, spicy food, or certain alcohols, can be useful in reducing symptoms of rosacea.
Rosacea and Dry Eyes
Commonly, patients with rosacea notice chronic eye problems. When this is the case, eye care professionals call the condition ocular rosacea. Ocular rosacea occurs when the inflammatory aspect of rosacea affects the eyelids, leading to an array of ocular problems. Those with ocular rosacea typically experience dry, itchy eyes and may have chronic redness. They may also experience increased light sensitivity, and have an increased risk of corneal inflammation and infection. In severe cases, those with ocular rosacea may develop a corneal ulcer, which can be sight threatening. The eye problems associated with ocular rosacea most commonly stem from chronic blepharitis, an inflammatory eyelid condition characterized by increased bacteria and debris in the eyelashes. Ocular rosacea can cause or exacerbate Meibomian gland dysfunction, and can lead to worsened symptoms of dry eye disease. Your eye doctor can identify signs of ocular rosacea by evaluating the front of the eye during a comprehensive eye examination.
Treating Ocular Rosacea
While there is no complete cure for rosacea or its ocular manifestations, there are treatment options to help reduce the severity of symptoms. One of the most important factors in controlling ocular rosacea is ensuring that the underlying skin inflammation is well controlled. Working with a dermatologist to treat rosacea with topical skin treatments or oral antibiotics can help reduce the inflammation along the eyelids margins. Treating the specific ocular rosacea symptoms requires a long-term lid hygiene routine to reduce inflammation and maintain clean eyelids every day. Your doctor will likely recommend daily lid scrubs to keep the eyelids and eyelashes clean. Commercially prepared lid scrubs with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties can be purchased to help keep the eyelids and eyelashes clean, or at-home lid scrubs can be performed with diluted baby shampoo and warm water. Your doctor may also recommend warm compresses, and consistent use of artificial tears can be used to reduce symptoms of dryness and irritation. Severe cases of ocular rosacea may warrant short-term prescription ointments or eye drops.