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What does Rosacea look like?

Dr. Nancy Shannon

Medically reviewed by Dr. Nancy Shannon, MD, PhD on June 21, 2021

Though rosacea is most commonly identified by its namesake symptom — redness in the face — it’s far from the only visual indicator that rosacea can manifest on the body. Rosacea will look different for different people, but there are still some common symptoms that are worth being aware of. Here’s what you should know:

Rosacea and Redness

Rosacea is usually thought of as an outbreak of red patches on the face, but the reality is a bit more complicated than that. Redness is the key component of most cases of rosacea, but it can be caused by a number of different factors. 

  • Flushing and Blushing

The face becoming flushed is not only one of the primary rosacea symptoms; it’s also a crucial warning sign. Rosacea generally appears in one’s early 30s, so if the years prior are characterized by bouts of frequent and unexplained flushing or blushing, there’s a good chance that rosacea is on the horizon. 

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  • Chronic Redness

Chronic redness is the defining symptom of rosacea, usually appearing as patches on the face, particularly the cheeks and nose, that may visually resemble a sunburn. These patches may come and go seemingly at random, or they may be brought about by certain triggers. While many people with rosacea experience a stinging or burning sensation coincidental to their redness, others will find their red patches completely painless.

  • Blood Vessels

Common among people with more advanced cases of rosacea, visible blood vessels can look like typical red patches from a distance. Upon closer inspection, it’s possible to make out small dots and lines just under the surface of the skin — these are blood vessels, irritated to the point of visibility. Known as telangiectasias, visible blood vessels are often painful due to the increased inflammatory pressure on them.

  • Red Bumps 

Red, occasionally pus-filled bumps are a characteristic symptom of papulopustular rosacea, one of the most common forms of rosacea. Though they may look like acne, these blemishes are actually a result of the epidermal irritation brought on by rosacea. 

  • Redness of the Nose

The nose is one of the most common places for red patches to appear on the faces of those with rosacea, and the long-term effects can be significant. Untreated rosacea in some people, particularly men, can result in a swelling of the sebaceous (oil) glands in the nose, causing it to grow significantly in size. This phenomenon, known as rhinophyma, is a notorious non-preventable result of advanced rosacea.

  • Eye Redness

Over 50% of people who suffer from rosacea will also experience ocular rosacea — rosacea that affects the eyes and/or eyelids. This may result in dry eyes, bloodshot eyes, burning/itching of the eyes, increased incidence of styes, or large amounts of buildup around the eyelids. While occasional redness of the eye is generally not a cause for concern, severe ocular rosacea, when left untreated, can result in severe damage to the cornea, which can affect one’s vision. 

  • Redness Beyond The Face

Even though the face is far and away the most common place for rosacea to appear, it’s not the only part of the body that can be affected. The ears, scalp, neck, or chest may also experience some redness as a result of rosacea flare-ups. Of note, rosacea does not involve the back and shoulders, which are common locations for acne.

Other Rosacea Symptoms

Redness may be the defining trait of rosacea, but it’s not the only symptom the condition can cause. Some others include:

  • Swelling

Swelling of parts of the face can be seen among those with rosacea. While the red patches that appear during a flare-up may become swollen, facial swelling can also occur independently of redness. The face may also develop small swollen patches of skin known as plaques instead of widespread swelling. 

  • Dryness

Rosacea often causesgeneral irritation to skin on the face, and dryness is a common response to this irritation. Symptoms can include burning, stinging, or itching. 

If you’re having difficulty managing all of the symptoms of your rosacea, we’re here to help. Get in contact with a member of our medical team today in order to learn about which treatment options might make the biggest impact on your skin.

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