Rosacea is a very common skin condition that affects millions of Americans, but despite this, rosacea is not very well understood. The root cause of rosacea is still unknown, and many people who suffer from the condition are unaware that it can also affect your eyes.
How Does Rosacea Affect Your Eyes?
Rosacea that affects your eyes is known as ocular rosacea. Like other types of rosacea, symptoms can be quite different from person to person and may be mild or severe. In some cases, ocular rosacea affects people who don't suffer from any serious skin complaints.
If you suffer from ocular rosacea, your eyes may frequently feel dry, with an accompanying burning or stinging sensation. Your eyes may become itchy, or feel like they have grit or sand trapped beneath the eyelids. This dryness can make your eyes visibly pink and bloodshot.
On the other hand, ocular rosacea can also make your eyes watery and teary, as your body produces more tears to compensate for the dryness. Alternating between overly dry and overly wet eyes is quite common.
Ocular rosacea can also increase your sensitivity to light and can affect the eyelids as well as the eyes themselves, making them red and swollen. Chronic ocular rosacea can also leave your eyes more vulnerable to common eye infections, such as conjunctivitis.
How Is Ocular Rosacea Diagnosed?
Many people who have ocular rosacea are unaware of the condition and assume that their eyes are suffering because of allergies, dry air, or poor sleep. Unfortunately, if ocular rosacea goes undiagnosed and untreated for too long, the prolonged dryness and inflammation can permanently alter your vision.
If you suffer from any type of rosacea, routine eye exams performed by a qualified optometrist are absolutely essential. Optometrists are trained to spot signs and symptoms of ocular rosacea and can offer treatments tailored to your needs.
Even if you already see a doctor or dermatologist about your rosacea, optometrists are eye health specialists and may spot signs of ocular rosacea long before other healthcare professionals do. Eye exams are particularly important if you have ocular rosacea but don't have any serious skin problems, as doctors and dermatologists may not diagnose you if you don't suffer from skin symptoms.
How Can Optometrists Treat Ocular Rosacea?
If you are diagnosed with ocular rosacea during a routine eye exam, your optometrist will create a treatment plan based on your specific needs and symptoms.
Conservative treatments can help to reduce symptoms and prevent dryness. Your optometrist may recommend applying warm compresses to your eyes regularly, which can reduce inflammation in your eyelids and help to prevent eye dryness. They will also work with you to determine what triggers your ocular rosacea symptoms -- bright sunlight, spicy foods, and strenuous exercise are some common triggers.
For more severe cases, you may be given medicated eyedrops, containing antibiotics and/or corticosteroids. These drops will help prevent infections and manage inflammation, and will also combat eye dryness. Oral antibiotics can also be effective. You may also be prescribed artificial tears to prevent chronic dry eye.
If prolonged dryness has caused any serious damage to the eyes, such as corneal scarring, your optometrist will inform you of treatment options that can help to repair the damage and prevent vision loss. Some optometrists offer intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments, which can repair damage to the eyes and eyelids non-invasively.
Speak to an optometrist today to learn more about adult routine eye exams.