Ocular rosacea

Ocular rosacea (roe-ZAY-she-uh) is inflammation of the eye that occurs as a result of rosacea, a chronic, inflammatory condition that affects the skin on your face, nose and forehead. Many people with skin rosacea develop ocular rosacea, usually in combination with skin symptoms, but occasionally ocular rosacea occurs by itself.

Ocular rosacea primarily affects adults between the ages of 30 and 60. Ocular rosacea is more common in people with fair skin.

If you have skin rosacea, you may not realize that your ocular rosacea symptoms, such as dry eyes, are connected to the condition. There's no cure for ocular rosacea, and left untreated, it tends to get worse. There are medications to help you manage the condition.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of ocular rosacea can precede skin symptoms, develop at the same time, develop later or occur on their own. Signs and symptoms of ocular rosacea may include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Burning or stinging in the eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Grittiness or feeling of having a foreign body in the eye or eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Redness (erythema)
  • Visibly dilated small blood vessels on the white part of the eye
  • Red, swollen eyelids
  • Sties
  • Tearing

The severity of ocular rosacea symptoms don't always match the severity of skin symptoms.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment to see a doctor if you have symptoms of ocular rosacea, such as dry eyes, burning or itchy eyes, redness, or blurred vision.

If you've been diagnosed with skin rosacea, ask your doctor whether you should undergo periodic eye exams to check for ocular rosacea.

The cause of ocular rosacea, like skin rosacea, is unknown, but it may be due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.

A number of factors can aggravate rosacea, so they can aggravate ocular rosacea, as well. Some of these factors include:

  • Consuming hot foods or beverages
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being in extreme cold or heat
  • Being in sunlight
  • Being stressed, angry or embarrassed
  • Exercising strenuously
  • Taking hot baths or being in hot tubs, steam rooms or saunas
  • Taking drugs that dilate blood vessels, including some blood pressure medications

Anyone who has skin rosacea can develop ocular rosacea. Although skin rosacea affects more women than men, ocular rosacea affects men and women equally. Among people who have skin rosacea, there's no way to tell who will develop eye symptoms. However, the development of sties — red, painful lumps near the edge of the eye — may be an early sign of ocular rosacea. Ocular rosacea is common in people with skin rosacea, and you may be more likely to develop skin rosacea if you:

  • Have fair or light skin
  • Are between the ages of 30 and 60, especially if you're a woman going through menopause
  • Are prone to flushing or blushing
  • Have a family history of rosacea

Left untreated, ocular rosacea may affect the surface of your eye (cornea), particularly when you have dry eyes from a deficiency of tears. Inflammation of your eyelids (blepharitis) can cause secondary irritation of the cornea from misdirected eyelashes or other complications. Ultimately, these conditions can lead to vision loss.

There's no known way to prevent ocular rosacea, but you can take steps to control your symptoms.

  • Continue your treatment plan. Even if it clears completely, ocular rosacea is likely to return. Keep taking the medications your doctor prescribes and cleanse your eyelids daily.
  • Avoid things that trigger rosacea, if possible. Find out what the triggers are, if any, that worsen your ocular rosacea and take steps to prevent or avoid them. Extreme temperatures, sun exposure, spicy foods, alcohol and stress all can trigger ocular rosacea.
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