University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Mary Stone, MD
Associate Professor of Dermatology and Pathology
First Published: November 2000
Last Revised: August 2003
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
It started as a small patch of tiny red bumps on her face, near
her nose. She used a non-prescription hydrocortisone ointment and the
spots faded for a few days, but they returned with vengeance,
sweeping across her chin to the other side of her face and up to her
forehead. Frustrated with the spots, she consulted her doctor.
Rosacea, the doctor said.
"Rosacea (ro-zay-sha) shouldn't be taken lightly. It can be very
disfiguring and affect a person's self-esteem," says Dr. Mary Stone,
associate professor of dermatology at the University of Iowa College
of Medicine and staff physician at UI Hospitals and Clinics. "Many
people misinterpret the symptoms of rosacea as sunburn or acne and
don't seek treatment. Rosacea appears in the central part of the
face, causing redness and pimples. Unlike acne, there are no
blackheads, and it doesn't occur on the neck or back. The spots look
like red pimples and wax and wane with stress, exposure to heat,
cold, and sunlight.
Fair-skinned women ages 30 to 50 are most susceptible to rosacea,
but men and women of all skin types, especially those with a history
of easy blushing, can develop the disease. Men are more likely to
develop knobby bumps on the nose, called rhinophyma. Rhinophyma
requires surgery to remove the affected tissue and resculpt the nose.
Other symptoms of rosacea--the bumps and redness--can be treated with
relatively inexpensive topical or oral medications.
Treatment doesn't cure rosacea, says Stone, but it can ease the
"Like acne, the inflammation of rosacea comes and goes, and we
don't know why some people get it and others don't," Stone says.
Treatment of rosacea can help control the severity of the disease.
Untreated, rosacea can lead to a condition where small blood vessels
in the skin of the face become enlarged and look like thin red
W.C. Fields is probably the most well-known person to have had
rosacea. "People associated his fondness for alcohol with the large
nose and the red skin. This association of alcohol and rosacea is
unfortunate. One can have rosacea without drinking alcohol, although
alcohol can aggravate the condition," says Stone. "Other things that
can aggravate the condition include spicy foods, hot liquids,
exposure to sunlight, and stress."
If you have questions about rosacea or other skin condition, talk
to your doctor.