Ocular Rosacea

Dr. Russel Lazarus, March 3, 2021
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Of the more than 16 million people in the United States who have rosacea, more than 60% will experience eye-related symptoms. 

More than 10% of the general population exhibits dermatologic characteristics of rosacea, of these, more than half will be impacted by ocular complications.

Ocular rosacea is a common eye condition that causes dry eye. While there is a lot of published research about ocular rosacea, a cure still has not been found. However, there are ways an eye doctor can help you manage this condition, so that the eyes can receive the relief they need.

If you experience dry eyes it may be due to ocular rosacea.

The Find an Eye Doctor directory provides a list of eye doctors near you that can conduct eye exams to diagnose and treat ocular rosacea.

Find an eye doctor near you

What is ocular rosacea?

Ocular rosacea is a common inflammatory eye condition that causes redness, itching, and a burning sensation around the eyes.

Ocular rosacea mainly affects people after the age of 50, but reports of this condition affecting people even in their 30s and 40s is not uncommon.

The primary parts of the eyes that are affected are the eyelids, conjunctiva and occasionally the cornea.

This condition may present itself as various eye conditions such as chronic blepharitis, corneal vascularization, and meibomian gland dysfunction.

Causes of ocular rosacea

Researchers aren’t sure of the exact reason as to why ocular rosacea happens however, they have found that 85% of people with ocular rosacea have blocked oil glands at the edges of their eyelids. Blocked meibomian glands, that produce the oil in the tears, can be successfully treated.

When these tiny glands are blocked the result is infection or inflammation of the margins of the eyelids area causing irritated, red and swollen eyelids This then leads to crusty eyelashes and even sore and itchy sensations in the eyes.

Other factors causing ocular rosacea include:

  • Heredity
  • Eyelash mites, known as Demodex
  • Blocked glands in the eyelids
  • Bacterial involvement
  • Environmental factors

Can ocular rosacea be prevented?

Research has shown that avoiding certain irritants can help reduce the likelihood of aggravating ocular rosacea. These include:

  • Alcohol
  • Hot baths or saunas
  • Spicy or hot foods or beverages
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Wind, sunlight, or extreme temperatures

Signs and symptoms of ocular rosacea

Ocular rosacea symptoms are usually similar to dry eye. The eyes may experience or feel the following:

  • Blurred vision
  • Itchy, red, burning, or watery
  • Swollen, red eyelids
  • Gritty or the feeling of having a foreign body in one or both eyes
  • Recurrent eye or eyelid infections
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Small dilated blood vessels on the front of the eye

Treatment for ocular rosacea

Home eye care and medications can usually help to reduce the symptoms of ocular rosacea, however, these steps may not cure the condition. Treatment to help reduce symptoms may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • A warm moist compress applied to the eyelids
  • Eye drops
  • Ointments with steroids
  • Probing, thin rods are used to unplug the glands allowing more oil to flow

In rare cases, if not treated, severe ocular rosacea can cause serious eye problems affecting one’s vision. This can be either scarring in the eyelids or damage on the cornea.

Tips to prevent flare ups

To help manage ocular rosacea following a good eye care routine to help prevent flare-ups.

  • At least twice a day, wash the eyelids gently with warm water or a product the eye doctor recommended. This will keep the eyelids clean.
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses during flare-ups.
  • Avoid makeup. If the eyes are inflamed, makeup can irritate them.
  • Avoid things that worsen or trigger ocular rosacea to prevent flare-ups. Items that tend to dilate blood vessels in the face include hot, spicy foods and alcoholic beverages.

If you believe you have ocular rosacea, contact an eye doctor near you to schedule an appointment, so that you discuss ways to prevent flare-ups and receive treatment to alleviate any symptoms you may be experiencing.