Acne Rosacea

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

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It is possible that the main title of the report Acne Rosacea is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.


  • Acne Erythematosa
  • Adult Acne
  • Hypertrophic Rosacea
  • Rhinophyma
  • Rosacea

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Acne Rosacea is a skin disorder limited to the nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead, typically beginning during adulthood. The facial skin becomes oily, reddened and bumpy. Small red blood vessels are visible. In extreme cases, the nose may appear very red and bulbous.


Acne Rosacea affects the skin of the nose, surrounding cheeks, chin, and forehead areas. The skin becomes oily and progressively reddened (erythematous) with enlarged blood vessels apparent in the skin (telangiectasias). Typically, small elevated growths (papules), some containing dead skin cells and fluid (pustules) develop over the central area of the face. Scarring usually does not occur. In very severe cases, the skin of the nose becomes extremely red and bulbous (rhinophyma). Some affected individuals may experience gritty-like feeling in their eyes. In addition, their eyes may appear watery or bloodshot.

Adolescents and young adults who blush frequently or whose flushes produce a redness that lasts longer than would otherwise be expected, may be prone to this disorder. People who have relatives with Rosacea and whose skin becomes irritated from anti-acne creams may also be predisposed to Acne Rosacea.


The exact cause of Acne Rosacea is not known. Studies indicate that some people may have a genetic predisposition to this disorder. Approximately 40 percent of affected individuals report a family history of the disorder.

Episodes of redness may be brought on or intensified by the consumption of hot liquids, spicy foods, and/or alcohol. Vigorous exercise, heat, exposure to sun and strong winds, exposure to cold weather, certain vitamin deficiencies, endocrine disturbances and/or emotional stress may also trigger an episode of Acne Rosacea. Other studies indicate that Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria; commonly associated with peptic ulcers, may play a role in triggering Acne Rosacea in some people.

One study indicated that Acne Rosacea may be triggered by common skin-care products (e.g., soap, exfoliant agents, makeup, perfume or cologne, moisturizer, hairspray, shaving lotion, sunscreen, and shampoo).

Another study indicated that Acne Rosacea may also be triggered by allergic reactions, colds, fever, or migraines.

Affected Populations

Acne Rosacea is believed to affect more than 13 million Americans. Acne Rosacea usually begins between the ages of thirty and fifty years of age, but can occur at any age. The disorder tends to affect females more than males, although cases among males tend to be more severe. Acne Rosacea is most common among people of Irish, English, and northern or eastern European descent.

Standard Therapies

Although there is no cure for Acne Rosacea, symptoms can be controlled. Antibiotics can control inflammation, but may cause adverse reactions in some patients.

A specific type of laser therapy (pulse dye laser) may make the spidery veins (telangiectasia) disappear from the surface of the skin. The laser does not cause surface damage and requires no anesthesia; this procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis. Laser therapy may eliminate some of the facial redness that is experienced by many people with Rosacea.

Carbon Dioxide laser and conventional surgery are used to remove excess skin growth (rhinophyma) as a temporary measure. Argon lasers have been effective in reducing redness in the nose area, but only in mild cases which have not progressed to rhinophyma.

The orphan drug metronidazole (Metrogel) was approved in 1988 by the FDA for treatment of Acne Rosacea. This drug is manufactured by Curatek Pharmaceuticals of Elk Village, IL.

People who are predisposed to Acne Rosacea should avoid anything that causes them to have episodes of flushing (e.g., sun, stress, extreme temperatures, hot weather, spicy foods, and skin-care products). Individuals with Acne Rosacea can try to find a particular ingredient in these products that may be the most irritating (e.g., alcohol, witch hazel, fragrance, menthol, peppermint, and eucalyptus oil). Individuals should avoid any ingredient they find to be irritating. For some individuals, sunscreens may irritate the skin. If that is the case, sunscreens developed for children should be applied. Predisposed adolescents should use nonirritating facial products. Other treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

Investigational Therapies

Information on current clinical trials is posted on the Internet at All studies receiving U.S. government funding, and some supported by private industry, are posted on this government web site.

For information about clinical trials being conducted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, contact the NIH Patient Recruitment Office:

Tollfree: (800) 411-1222

TTY: (866) 411-1010


For information about clinical trials sponsored by private sources, contact:



Stein JH, ed. Internal Medicine, 2nd Ed.: Little, Brown and Co.;1987:1379-1381.


Bleicher PA, Charles JH, Sober AJ. Topical metronidazole therapy for rosacea. Arch Dermatol. 1987;123(5): 609-614.

Wheeland RG, Bailin PL, Ratz JL. Combined carbon dioxide laser excision and vaporization in the treatment of rhinophyma. J Dermatol Surg Oncol. 1987;13(2):172-177.

Eisen RF, et al. Surgical treatment of rhinophyma with the shaw scalpel.Arch Dermatol. 1986;122(3):307-309.

Dicken CH. Treatment of the red nose with the argon laser. Mayo Clin Proc.1986;61(11):893-895.

Hoting E, Paul E, Plewig G. Treatment of rosacea with isotretinoin. Int J Dermatol. 1986;25(10):660-663.


National Rosacea Society

196 James Street

Barrington, IL 60010

Tel: (847)382-8971

Fax: (847)382-5567

Tel: (888)662-5874



NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Information Clearinghouse

One AMS Circle

Bethesda, MD 20892-3675


Tel: (301)495-4484

Fax: (301)718-6366

Tel: (877)226-4267

TDD: (301)565-2966



Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center

PO Box 8126

Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126

Tel: (301)251-4925

Fax: (301)251-4911

Tel: (888)205-2311

TDD: (888)205-3223


For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.® (NORD). Cigna members can access the complete report by logging into For non-Cigna members, a copy of the complete report can be obtained for a small fee by visiting the NORD website. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational treatments (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, see