Rosacea: symptoms, causes and treatments

Georgina Smith / 05 August 2016

Could your reddening and flushing skin be rosacea? Find out here.



What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a common skin condition that may affect around 1 in 10 people. It's more likely to appear as we get older, and while its exact cause is unknown and there is no existing cure, there are ways that the symptoms of rosacea can be treated and managed.

Skin problem? Here’s what it means

What are the symptoms of rosacea?

Rosacea normally starts with episodes of flushing. Sufferers may find that their skin turns red for a short period before returning to normal.

Symptoms will progress over time and may include:

  • burning and stinging sensations
  • permanent redness
  • infected spots
  • small blood vessels in the skin becoming visible

It's what's known as a relapsing condition, which means symptoms may disappear for a time, but will eventually return.

Sufferers may experience periods where the symptoms seem worse, whilst at other times they appear much milder. The important thing to remember is that symptoms can be managed and there is help available.

Who gets rosacea?

Most cases of rosacea are first diagnosed in people between the ages of 30 and 50. Around 1 in 600 are currently diagnosed with it in the UK, however the number of people suffering from it is probably much higher: some say as many as 1 in 10.

It tends to affect more women than men, and is usually seen in those with fairer skin, although it can also appear in people of Asian or African descent.

Rosacea causes and triggers

The precise cause of rosacea is unknown. However, it has been suggested that it could be associated with abnormalities in blood vessels in the face, or even a reaction to microscopic mites found on the skin.

Whilst a cause is unknown, a number of triggers have been identified which may make the condition worse. These triggers include:

  • exposure to sunlight
  • stress
  • strenuous exercise
  • hot or cold weather
  • hot drinks
  • alcohol and caffeine
  • certain foods such as spicy food

What to do if you think you have rosacea

It's important that you see your GP if you think you have any of the symptoms of rosacea.

Early treatment can help stop the condition getting worse and your GP may be able to help you identify what triggers may be worsening symptoms.

While there is no diagnostic test for the illness, your GP may arrange further tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as lupus.

Tips for skin disorders

How is rosacea treated?

While there is no cure for rosacea, there are treatments that may help to reduce the severity of symptoms. Most people diagnosed with rosacea will use treatment alongside self-management techniques. These may include:

  • avoiding known triggers such as sunlight, certain foods and alcohol
  • applying creams and gels
  • using oral medication such as antibiotics to help clear up spots

It's important to talk to your GP before trying to manage the condition yourself, as some over-the-counter creams and gels may actually exacerbate the condition.

Sometimes people will undergo laser and intense pulse light (IPL) treatment to help alleviate symptoms. These procedures work by shrinking the visible blood vessels in the skin. 

Other help for rosacea

It's vital that we look after our mental health as much as our physical health. So if you are feeling depressed, stressed or anxious about having rosacea – or about any other issue or condition – it's important you speak to your GP or another suitable healthcare professional.

Many people with rosacea also find that simply covering up the inflamed skin with make-up can make a world of difference to how they feel.

How to smooth and even your skin tone

With a suitable regime of treatment and self-management, rosacea doesn't need to get in the way life. If you suffer from rosacea, you shouldn't feel alone. It's a common condition that affects many people, and there are groups and organisations that can lend support and information. These include the British Association of Dermatologists website. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.