Most people are familiar with or have at least heard of rosacea, a common skin disease that causes redness and acne-like bumps on the skin on and around the face. However, what you may not know is that rosacea can actually affect your eyes too. When it affects the eyes, it is termed ocular rosacea.
Roughly 13 million Americans have rosacea. And of those 13 million, more than half also have ocular rosacea. In fact, many people develop ocular rosacea first or may only have the form of the condition that is found in the eyes. In either case, though, knowing what signs to look out for will help you identify and get appropriate treatment sooner.
Ocular Rosacea Symptoms
While the cause of ocular rosacea is unknown, many of the symptoms of the condition seem to insight an inflammatory response within the body. As such, it often manifests in much the same way as its skin-based counterpart. Some of the most common ocular rosacea symptoms include:
Many individuals experience dry eyes in combination with ocular rosacea. The dryness may be due, at least in part, to a blockage in the tear ducts or oil glands that contributes to the onset of the condition itself.
Itching like that associated with allergies or other inflammatory responses is one of the many ocular rosacea symptoms. This issue can be itching of the eye itself or may be attributed to dry, sensitive skin immediately surrounding the eye.
Many individuals with ocular rosacea also describe having an uncomfortable feeling of grittiness in the eye, as if there is a foreign substance in the eye itself. This issue often contributes to itching and dryness as well.
Depending on the severity of the condition, you may also notice changes in your vision in combination with the condition. Most individuals report having experienced blurred vision, which can make it difficult to carry out normal, everyday tasks.
Light sensitivity or photophobia is also one of the common ocular rosacea symptoms. Most individuals notice that their sensitivity to light is heightened most when the inflammation in and around their eyes is the greatest.
Dilated Blood Vessels
A particularly alarming symptoms, some individuals develop a visible blood vessel in the eye. While it is a common or normal symptom, it can appear unexpectedly and make the eye condition look dramatically worse.
Because it is an inflammatory condition, noticeable inflammation is a one of the common ocular rosacea symptoms. Inflammation typically appears on the eyelids or the skin surrounding the eyes and is made worse by rubbing or scratching the eyes.
As the eyes try to lubricate in response to the inflammation, they may appear watery or teary. This is a natural response of the eye, but it can be frustrating.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you may also experience some burning or stinging in or around the eyes. Burning and stinging is typically contributed to the inflammation and irritation the condition causes.
Much like rosacea can cause pimpling of the skin, ocular rosacea can cause a line or cluster of small pimples along the rim of the eye or on the eyelid. These pimples are known as sties and may cause discomfort.
Complications of Ocular Rosacea
What may start as a minor irritation or discomfort in the eye can quickly develop into a more serious concern if left untreated. Ocular rosacea can cause serious complications if allowed to progress uncontrolled. If ocular rosacea becomes too severe, the cornea may become damaged and result in the permanent loss of clear vision.
Additionally, ocular rosacea that is untreated may lead to a condition known as rosacea keratitis. Though rare, it can result in blindness. Effective treatment of ocular rosacea not only alleviates symptoms of the condition, but it also prevents complications, such as vision loss and blindness.
Relieving Ocular Rosacea Symptoms
The first step toward finding relief from ocular rosacea is to seek treatment from your ophthalmologist or dermatologist. If you show signs of the condition only in your eyes, then seeing your eye doctor first is advisable. However, if you notice symptoms in as well as around your eye or eyes, then your dermatologist will likely be of most help. It is important to note, though, that if you’re experiencing severe symptoms, such as light sensitivity, burning, or extremely red eyes, you need to see your ophthalmologist as quickly as possible.
In any case, your doctor will likely start you on a round of oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline. He or she may also recommend or prescribe eye drops to ease your symptoms and provide comfort to your eyes.
While you are waiting for the medication to take effect, there are a few measures you can take to ease your discomfort and reduce further spreading of the condition. Keeping your eyes and the surrounding area clean and cool can soothe the inflammation associated with the condition.
To get relief:
- Place a warm compress over your eyes for several minutes. This should soothe the eyes and skin.
- Use a gentle cleanser to wash your eyes. A small amount of baby shampoo diluted with plenty of water or a product meant for gently cleansing eyelids is ideal. Massage your eyelids with the soap to cleanse them and loosen any crusting. Then flush your eyes gently with water.
- Adopt an ocular rosacea diet or an anti-inflammatory food approach.
Although relatively common, ocular rosacea is not as familiar to the general population as the traditional form of the condition. Knowing what to look for and seeking treatment is important to avoid debilitating complications. Like rosacea, ocular rosacea is characterized by inflammation and redness. Some individuals also experience itchy, dry, or watery eyes as well as small pimples or sties along the inner rim of the eyelid.
Treatment typically involves reducing the symptoms of the condition as well as treating the underlying cause with an oral antibiotic and eye drops. If left untreated, however, the condition can worsen and cause significant complications, so it is important to seek a doctor’s care if you are concerned you are experiencing any symptoms.