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Ocular Rosacea: What It Is and How to Treat It

Ocular Rosacea Rosacea is a common inflammatory skin condition which can affect the face and body. The exact cause is as yet unknown, but it may have hereditary tendencies and may also be associated with environmental factors, such as exposure to the sun. Rosacea is sometimes triggered by stress, spicy food and alcohol, so if you have the disease avoiding these may help.

Strangely, rosacea is more common in women than in men, but men are more likely to have severe forms of the disease. Between 1 and 10% of the population suffer from rosacea.

When the disease affects the eyes, it is termed ‘Ocular Rosacea.’ It is not known exactly how many rosacea patients suffer from eye symptoms. One study showed that between 6 and 18% of those people diagnosed with rosacea also have ocular rosacea, while another reported that as many as 60% of rosacea patients may have eye symptoms.

Symptoms of Rosacea and Ocular Rosacea
Rosacea gives sufferers a ruddy or reddish complexion in its earliest stage, especially on the nose and cheeks. As the rosacea progresses, the skin may become chronically red, irritated and inflamed. Bumpy red skin lesions and pimples develop, especially on the nose, forehead and cheeks, along with tiny blood vessels in the skin known as telangiectasias. The most severe cases of rosacea result in a skin-thickening condition called rhinophyma, which can cause some degree of disfigurement.

Those suffering with rosacea often experience eye problems, but may not realize they're related to the disease. The symptoms of ocular rosacea are:

If the corneal inflammation is left untreated, a corneal ulcer may perforate the eye, possibly leading to blindness. Any white spots on the iris should be referred to an eye doctor immediately for assessment and treatment.

Treatment of ocular rosacea
For ocular rosacea to be treated successfully, the patient must be fully committed to the process. Daily cleansing of the eyelids with a moistened cotton swab is usually necessary to remove any oily secretions and debris. Some eye doctors recommend adding a small amount of diluted no-tear baby shampoo, but others advocate cleansing with clean water only.

An antibiotic or antibiotic steroid ointment will likely be prescribed for a period of time to help the eye heal. Tetracyclines such as doxycycline work particularly well in treating ocular rosacea, as they have not only an antibiotic effect but also decrease the production of natural oils. This reduces the likelihood of the oil glands becoming blocked, which is common complication with this condition.

Dry eyes may also be experienced as part of the condition. Artificial tear eyedrops and a home humidifier can usually help, but if these treatments aren't enough, punctual plugs may be inserted to block the tear drainage ducts.

Rosacea patients are usually under the care of a dermatologist as well as an eye doctor, and the two will work together to manage the condition.

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