Ocular rosacea is associated with a common inflammatory disease that affects the skin around the face, chest, as well as the eyes. The condition may be linked with inherited and environmental factors such as excessive sun exposure.
Rosacea affects more women than men. Recent studies imply that 6-18% of people diagnosed with acne rosacea also have ocular symptoms. Rosacea itself is believed to occur in 1-10% of the general population.
Ocular Rosacea Symptoms
People with rosacea condition commonly have a “ruddy” complexion in the early stages visibly seen as a reddish nose and cheeks. These further develop as bumpy red skin lesions, acne, and tiny, tortuous vessels in the skin known as telangiectasias.
The most severe case of rosacea progresses to a condition called rhinophyma where the skin thickens along with connective tissues of the nose and can result in disfigurement.
Most people with rosacea may not realize that their eyes are also involved in the accompanying symptoms such as red and itchy eyes. People suffering from ocular rosacea commonly have chronically bloodshot eyes, dry eyes, and blepharitis.
Ocular rosacea can also cause photophobia – an unusual sensitivity to light. Photochromic lenses which automatically darken in response to sunlight are some of the best options to relieve discomfort.
In severe cases of ocular rosacea, inflammation of the cornea may lead to infection and corneal ulcer. This requires immediate medical attention or else, the corneal ulcer may even perforate the eye. This is a very serious medical condition and can potentially be a blinding complication.
Ocular Rosacea Treatments
Ocular rosacea requires the patient to be motivated and determined to devote time to control the condition. Treatment usually consists of lid hygiene measures that involve daily cleansing:
- Moistened Q-tips to remove debris and oily secretions
- Dilute baby shampoo or plain water to wash the affected areas
An antibiotic and steroid treatment are often prescribed for varying periods of time depending on the body response of the patient. Tetracyclines usually work well for rosacea because of its decreasing effect on the viscosity of naturally secreted oils, thereby reducing the oil gland “plugging” the skin.
Dry eye syndrome which often accompanies rosacea should be treated with eye drops for as often as 4 times a day or more, a home humidifier, or punctal plugs for more severe dry eyes. A permanent intervention is punctal cautery which burns tear duct openings.
Lastly, topical metronidazole, an antiparasitic agent, may be applied on the skin to aid in rosacea-related dermatitis. The medicine consists of local anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive components. Never apply this directly to the eyelids as this product is not available in ophthalmic preparations.
If you have rosacea, your doctor will likely recommend you avoid triggers that can cause inflammation, such as alcohol, stress, and spicy foods.