Ocular Rosacea - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Ocular rosacea appears in about half of all rosacea sufferers, this condition being characterized by inflammatory processes affecting the skin on face, forehead, cheeks, nose and chin. Often referred to as ‘adult acne’, rosacea manifests through recurrent pimples which are sometimes accompanied by soreness and a burning sensation in the eyes and eyelids.
More common in people with fair skin, this condition generally has its onset between the ages of 30 and 60. Women seem to be more prone to developing the disorder although the exact trigger of this embarrassing and frustrating skin and eye problem is not known.
Potential causes and risk factors for ocular rosacea
Researchers believe the predisposition for developing this condition is inherited or strongly linked with environmental factors. Excessive exposure to sun for example is considered a serious risk factor for this ailment as it can damage not only the skin around the eyes but also the layers composing the ocular globes, causing irritation, redness and discomfort. Extreme cold or heat, including hot baths and hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms, may also favor the occurrence of this problem.
Then, taking blood pressure medication and corticosteroids, exercising strenuously and being constantly exposed to stress can dilate the blood vessels, damaging them and leading to redness and irritation of the skin and eyes. Alcohol, a diet rich in spicy products, hot beverages and foods as well as drinking too much caffeine seems to favor the onset of eye rosacea.
If your skin tends to get reddish whenever you feel embarrassed and you have a positive family history for skin or ocular rosacea, you’re quite likely to experience this eye problem. But keep in mind this condition is different from eye redness appearing as a result of prolonged exposure to dust, dry air or allergens and it’s different from the itchiness and irritation occurring in cold and flu or after working in front of a computer for several hours.
Rosacea affecting the eyes is quite a serious health issue and should be immediately reported and treated to prevent complications. Often neglected and left untreated, this condition can severely affect the cornea, leading to ulcers and infections which in time can perforate the eye and cause blindness.
Symptoms of eye rosacea
Ocular rosacea symptoms generally accompany skin rosacea signs, such as a reddish nose and cheeks, although they can precede or occur after the painful skin pimples. The first manifestations of this condition are the burning or stinging sensation, the itchiness and dryness of the eyes and the swollen and red eyelids. Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia), blurred vision and the sensation of having something in the eye also appear quite frequent in people with eye rosacea.
In most cases, some tiny blood vessels are visible on the white regions of the ocular globes and styes are present on the eyelids. Blepharitis, manifesting through swollen, itching and crusty eyelids and conjunctivitis – the inflammation of the conjuctiva and cornea - can also be present. Although all these signs can be treated effectively, rosacea – whether it affects only the skin or the eyes as well – is a chronic and recurrent condition, requiring long-term treatment for keeping its symptoms under control and preventing future outbreaks.
Ocular rosacea treatments
As said, this skin and eye condition can’t be completely cured as it tends to come back from time to time, whenever dirt, bacteria or other pathogens get inside your eyes. So the first and most important measures you should take for keeping its symptoms under control are maintaining your eyelids clean during the day, removing makeup once getting home and avoiding harsh cosmetics and contact lenses.
Aside from cleaning and removing the debris and oil from your eyelids and skin surrounding the eyes, you can also try to apply some ointments containing antibiotics. Most doctors prescribe medicines for long-term usage, such as doxycycline, tetracycline or erythromycin. Oral corticosteroids may also be prescribed for temporary relieving swelling and pain and reducing inflammation.
Another solution for managing ocular rosacea consists in applying eye drops which combat dryness and itchiness, reducing the reddish aspect. However, keep in mind that some of these artificial tears are not created for long term and can worsen the symptoms when applied excessively.
In case none of these remedies brings the desired results, punctal plugs can be applied for closing the tear drainage ducts and preventing dryness, redness and swelling of the eyes. These plugs are completely harmless for your ocular globes and can be removed if necessary.