Ocular rosacea is a chronic disease with no cure. But once you find treatments that can relieve your symptoms and learn what your triggers are, you should be able to minimize its impact on your life.
Ocular rosacea is an inflammatory disease that affects your eyes and the skin around them. It’s a form of the broader skin disease rosacea that affects your whole face. It’s also sometimes called meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).
Ocular rosacea is a chronic (long-term) disease that has no cure. You can manage it with treatments and avoiding your triggers.
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Ocular rosacea can affect anyone. A few groups of people who are more likely to develop ocular rosacea include:
Experts estimate that around 5% of people worldwide have some form of rosacea. However, many people with mild symptoms never have their rosacea diagnosed. People tend to assume symptoms of ocular rosacea are issues like seasonal allergies or problems with their contact lenses.
If you experience new symptoms — especially if they come back more than once — talk to your healthcare provider.
Ocular rosacea causes symptoms in and around your eyes. It might make your eyes and the skin around them irritated, painful, itchy and uncomfortable.
Symptoms of ocular rosacea include:
Rosacea is sometimes only associated with “redness” on white or fair skin. But people with darker skin and skin of color can get ocular rosacea too.
Many of the symptoms are the same, but rosacea’s trademark discoloration might be harder to notice on dark skin. It might not also show up at all. Symptoms of ocular rosacea on skin of color include:
Experts aren’t certain what causes ocular rosacea. Some possible explanations include:
Although no one knows for sure what causes rosacea, some circumstances and conditions are known to trigger it, including:
Your healthcare provider will diagnose ocular rosacea with a physical exam. Make sure you tell them about all the symptoms you’ve felt, even if they get better before your appointment.
Your symptoms, medical history and whether you’ve noticed any triggers are the only way to diagnose ocular rosacea, so every detail you share can help your provider diagnose your issues correctly.
There are no tests to diagnose ocular rosacea. Your provider will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, medical history and whether or not you’ve responded to any common triggers of ocular rosacea.
The most important aspect of treating your ocular rosacea is knowing — and avoiding — your triggers. This is especially true because there is no cure for rosacea. Knowing what triggers your symptoms is the best way to avoid experiencing them.
Other treatments include:
You should avoid foods and drinks that trigger your ocular rosacea symptoms. For most people, this includes spicy foods and alcohol. Your triggers will be unique to you. Once you know what can aggravate your ocular rosacea, you can avoid it as often as possible.
The biggest complication of ocular rosacea treatment is that your symptoms get so bad they affect your eyes and vision permanently. There’s also a risk that touching your eyes can lead to infections.
Managing your ocular rosacea symptoms is mostly about avoiding their triggers. It might help you to keep a list or a journal of what does or doesn’t trigger your symptoms. This can be especially helpful right after your diagnosis. Use a warm compress on your eyes a few times per week when you’re experiencing symptoms.
Make sure you’re following the treatment plan your provider gives you. Even when you’re not having a flare up or your symptoms are under control, it’s important to use your medicines and other preventive treatments as often as you should.
You should feel better a few weeks after starting new treatments to manage your symptoms. If you need steroid eye drops or other medications, it might take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for them to start working.
The treatments will not cure your ocular rosacea, but they should relieve your symptoms and make you more comfortable during a flare.
After you’ve been diagnosed with ocular rosacea, the best way to reduce your risk of future flares is to know and avoid your triggers. Some of the best ways to prevent flares include:
There’s nothing you can do to prevent ocular rosacea. Once you’ve been diagnosed, you should focus on managing your symptoms and avoiding your triggers to make sure you have flares as infrequently as possible.
You should expect to have ocular rosacea for a long time, possibly for the rest of your life. Some people have fewer flares as they learn to manage their triggers, but there’s always a possibility your ocular rosacea will come back.
You shouldn’t need to miss work or school. If you’re especially sensitive to light, or your symptoms make it hard to read or look at a computer screen, you might need to take some time away from your job or studies while you’re experiencing a flare. Talk to your provider about which activities you should avoid during a flare up.
Overall, the outlook for ocular rosacea is positive. Even though it can be uncomfortable and annoying, it is not a life-threatening disease, and it won’t cause you to lose your vision. Once you learn the best ways to manage your symptoms and avoid your triggers, you should be able to minimize how much ocular rosacea impacts your life.
Follow the treatment plan from your provider as best you can. A big part of living with ocular rosacea is knowing what can trigger your symptoms and doing your best to avoid those triggers.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice your symptoms getting worse, or if your flare ups happen more frequently.
Make sure to mention any new or different symptoms too. Your provider can adjust your treatment options to fit your current symptoms as they change over the course of your life.
Go to the emergency room if your symptoms include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Being diagnosed with any chronic condition means you unexpectedly have a lifelong disease to manage. That includes ocular rosacea. It can seem overwhelming at first, but as you learn what helps you control your symptoms and which triggers to avoid, you should be able to get into a good rhythm of feeling like yourself again. Your healthcare provider can help you come up with treatment plans and strategies to avoid your triggers.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/04/2022.
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