Rosacea: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications

What skin looks and feels like when affected by this condition

Rosacea is usually constant, but it can come and go or flare up at times. Some areas of skin affected by rosacea, especially the nose can become thickened over time. Complications, such as infections or bleeding, are rare, but they can occur if the skin is not well taken care of. 

Less often, rosacea may be associated with mild discomforts, such as a burning sensation, but the cosmetic issue tends to be more distressing than the discomfort.

Rosacea Symptoms
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Frequent Symptoms

You can experience any of the following with rosacea:

  • Redness of the affected parts of the face
  • Swelling
  • Raised, solid pink spots on the skin
  • Pus-filled spots
  • Appearance of superficial blood vessels on the skin
  • Thickened skin
  • Rhinophyma—a thick, somewhat bumpy nose
  • Tingling sensation of the affected areas
  • Burning sensation of the affected areas

Rosacea affects the face. It typically involves the cheeks and nose, as you can see in this photo of a rosacea patient, as well as the middle part of the forehead and the chin. It is usually symmetric, affecting both sides equally. The condition can flare up, with partial or complete improvement between flare-ups.

rosacea on face

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

You may have obvious symptoms for days, weeks, or longer and you can see improvement in your skin in between flare-ups. Some people notice that the symptoms are more severe in response to triggers, such as spicy food, sun exposure, or stress. 

Signs of a Rosacea Flare-Up

The first sign of a rosacea flare-up is usually redness. However, you may be more prone to some symptoms and not others. Or you may notice certain symptoms right at the beginning of an outbreak and then other symptoms may develop over the following days.

Rare Symptoms

Some people may experience rosacea of the eyes, a condition called ocular rosacea. This typically appears along with rosacea that affects the skin, but experts suggest that ocular rosacea may be more common in children who also have the skin condition.

Signs of rosacea in the eyes include:

Rarely, rosacea may involve other areas of skin besides the face, such as the neck, ears, or other areas of the body.

Rosacea is more common among people who have light skin. But if you have dark skin, you can also develop rosacea. The symptoms may involve bumps and thickening of the skin, as well as a burning sensation. Redness might not be prominent or might not occur at all.


Rosacea can cause complications that affect the skin, and it can also cause emotional distress due to feeling self-consciousness about the appearance of the skin.

The most common physical complication of rosacea is thickening of the skin. This can happen after years of living with rosacea. Recurrent lesions may also cause scarring of the skin.

Rarely, the condition may be associated with bleeding and/or skin infections. Bleeding can occur due to scratching the skin. Infections can occur if the skin is cut, allowing bacteria to enter. An infection may cause enlarged pus-filled bumps, tenderness, swelling, and fevers. If not treated, the infections can worsen and spread. After an infection on the face heals, it may result in persistent facial scars.

In severe cases of ocular rosacea, sores can develop in the eye and vision can be affected unless the condition is treated effectively.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

You don’t need to wait for complications to happen before talking to your healthcare provider. If the appearance or feel of your skin is bothering you, it’s important that you seek medical attention for your condition. 

You and your healthcare provider can talk about possible triggers and come up with a plan to reduce your flare-ups. Your treatment plan can include strategies such as avoiding triggers, taking medication, or a combination of approaches. 

If you have a treatment plan that stopped working after it had been controlling your symptoms, its time to talk to your healthcare provider about a new treatment plan. Your condition can change, or you might be encountering a new trigger that is causing your skin to flare up.

A Word From Verywell

Symptoms of rosacea are visibly noticeable. You may see your own skin reaction in the mirror and you can usually feel the change in skin texture. You can also experience mild skin discomfort at times.

If you have any symptoms of rosacea, it’s important that you discuss your condition with your healthcare provider so that you can get started in treatment and avoid lasting changes in the appearance and texture of the skin on your face.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can be mistaken for rosacea?

    Some skin conditions that cause pimples or red, swollen skin can sometimes be mistaken for rosacea. These include acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

  • What are the four types of rosacea?

    The four subtypes of rosacea and their characteristics are:

    • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (facial redness and visible broken blood vessels)
    • Papulopustular rosacea (acne-like pustules)
    • Phymatous rosacea (thickening skin)
    • Ocular rosacea (eye symptoms)

    You can have more than one subtype of rosacea at once.

  • What are the causes of rosacea?

    It isn't clear what causes some people to develop rosacea. Researchers think it could be a combination of factors, including genetics and an overactive immune system.

  • Can rosacea go away on its own?

    Probably not, but it can get better for periods of time if you avoid triggers. These include hot weather, stress, alcohol, and certain foods.

  • Does rosacea worsen with age?

    It can. Rosacea tends to start anytime in your 30s, 40s, and 50s. Without treatment, symptoms like redness and broken blood vessels can become more noticeable and persistent.

  • Does drinking water help rosacea?

    It might. Rosacea can get worse when you're overheated. If so, drinking a cool glass of water may help to avoid a flare.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Forton FMN, De maertelaer V. Rosacea and demodicosis: Little-known diagnostic signs and symptoms. Acta Derm Venereol. 2019;99(1):47-52.doi:10.2340/00015555-3041

  2. American Academy of Family Physicians. Rosacea.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Could my child have rosacea?

  4. American Academy of Dermatology. People with skin of color can get rosacea.

  5. National Rosacea Society. Red skin & rashes are not always the result of rosacea.

  6. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosacea: Signs and symptoms.

  7. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosacea: Who gets and causes.

  8. National Rosacea Society. All about rosacea.

  9. American Academy of Dermatology. How to prevent rosacea flare-ups.

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.