Complications with rosacea
Rosacea can cause other health complications which can have physical and emotional affects for someone living with the condition. Physical complications usually affect the eyes (ocular rosacea) or a thickening of the skin around the nose (known as Rhinophyma or Phymatous rosacea).
More often people will experience psychological and social effects of living with a long term condition such as rosacea (also referred to as chronic) as many people feel depressed, anxious and frustrated by the way in which rosacea symptoms can alter their appearance.
Rosacea of the eye is one of the most common complications for patients with rosacea.
Ocular rosacea gives a feeling of something in the eyes which often makes the eye feel irritated, dry and appear red. There may be a burning sensation which can include swelling of the eyelid (blepharitis). This is usually temporary but symptoms should be managed in order to avoid further complications. The type of management suitable for you is best discussed with your doctor as the eye is a very sensitive area and early diagnosis of issues can help to reduce complications. If you think you have symptoms of ocular rosacea make an appointment to visit your doctor. In very severe cases of ocular rosacea the cornea (the transparent layer in front of the eyeball) can become inflamed and damaged. This is known as keratitis and symptoms include sensitivity to light, pain and blurred vision.
If you think you have symptoms of keratitis it is important that you visit your doctor immediately, but if this is not possible visit your nearest hospital with an accident and emergency department (A&E). If symptoms are not treated immediately there is an increased risk of permanent sight loss.
A thickening of the skin around the nose caused by the widening of the sebaceous glands (oil glands) can occur as a complication of rosacea. It is referred to as rhinophyma or phymatous rosacea and is only seen in very severe cases. Symptoms may begin with the appearance of bumps on the nose and a visible redness. If left untreated the nose can become more swollen and bulbous over time, and pores (tiny dots on the surface of skin) can enlarge and become very visible.
A diagnosis of rhinophyma is usually made by a doctor following a routine examination. If the diagnosis is unclear, a dermatologist (skin specialist) may take a small skin biopsy under local anaesthetic for examination under the microscope. Swellings can arise on other parts of the face such as the ears and chin; however this is much less common than the nose. Although there is no cure for rhinophyma, treatments can be effective in controlling it.
Psychological and social effects
Psychological and social effects can occur with a chronic (long term) condition such as rosacea; these may include low self-esteem, embarrassment, anxiety or frustration. These can increase when facial features change and symptoms of the condition progress and become more noticeable. Patients may report feelings of embarrassment or anxiety when their facial flushing occurs in social situations. This anxiety may resemble a panic disorder and can cause some patients to become reclusive. A further complication that some patients with rosacea show concern for is that their facial disfigurement lessens their sexual desirability or affects their career advancement. Adhering to rosacea treatment plans and avoiding triggers of rosacea can help with this. It is also important to remember you are not alone and many other people are living with this condition and the associated complications. You can find further help and support from talkhealth’s rosacea community in the talkrosacea forum.
If you experience extreme feelings of distress or depression make an appointment with your doctor immediately.
Sources of evidence available on request.
Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 19 April 2016
Next review: 19 April 2019