Redness and Bumps: 7 Ways to Tell If It’s Rosacea or Something Else

By | 25 March, 2016

Did you know that there are about 44 skin disorders affecting millions of people around the world? These skin conditions go beyond the rash on your arms from using the wrong lotion or those red dots on your face caused by hormones. However, there are skin issues that are more serious or require extensive treatment such as:

  • AcneAcne
  • Psoriasis
  • Seborrheic Eczema
  • Vitiligo
  • Keloid
  • Shingles
  • Warts
  • Skin Cancer

Each of these skin disorders has specific symptoms, which differentiates one from the other. However, there are cases when it is hard to diagnose what particular skin issue you are experiencing. This is why it is important to seek medical help to ensure that you will get the right treatment for your skin condition.

One of these common conditions is rosacea.

Rosacea Compared to Other Skin Conditions

Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory condition of the skin, which makes you blush easily than other people. It appears on the forehead, and then spreads to the nose, cheeks and down to the chin, thereby giving you a flushed appearance.

Rosacea is common in facial areas, although there are cases where it spreads down to your neck and chest. This skin condition could happen to anyone; however, light-skinned women, particularly of Scottish, English and Irish descent between the ages of 30 and 50 have a higher risk of developing rosacea.

Despite the available treatments, rosacea is a life-long condition, which continues to progress if left untreated.

Oftentimes, people confuse rosacea with other skin conditions such as acne, allergic reactions and dermatitis because of the similarity of symptoms. To avoid confusion, here are seven things you should know about rosacea and why it is different from other skin disorders.

1. Common Signs and Symptoms of Rosacea

The signs and symptoms are crucial in determining what type of skin condition you are experiencing. When it comes to rosacea, the progression varies from one person to another.

skin turns redHowever, a recent survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society revealed that these two symptoms are the early signs of rosacea:

  • Flushing – This is where skin turns red for a short period, usually for a few minutes.
  • Persistent Redness – Known as erythema, which looks like a patch or blush of sunburn that does not go away. It also looks like a blotchy skin, which often associated with drinking too much alcohol.

Other symptoms may develop as the condition progresses. These symptoms are:

  • Visible Blood Vessels
  • Papules or Round, Red Bumps
  • Pustules or Pus-Filled Swelling
  • Thickened Skin, a Sign of Severe Rosacea
  • Eye Problems, Known as Ocular Rosacea

Early treatment could prevent rosacea from getting worse. When you experience any of the symptoms, make sure to consult a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

2. Rosacea Causes: An Unsolved Mystery

You might ask what the exact cause of rosacea is. Up to this day, the exact cause of rosacea is still unknown. Experts noticed that the blood vessels of rosacea patients are more reactive and unstable, which explains the redness and flushing.

Experts were able to identify several potential factors that could trigger rosacea. These factors include:

  • AlcoholBlood Vessel Abnormalities
  • Spicy Foods
  • Exposure to Sunlight
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Hot or Cold Weather
  • Hot Drinks
  • Strenuous Exercises
  • Microscopic Mites
  • Genes
  • Hot Baths

The presence of these external factors could activate substances within your skin called peptides. When there are too many peptides in your body, it could affect the immune or neurovascular system and cause redness, dilation of blood vessels and inflammation.

3. The Four Different Types of Rosacea

Rosacea is not just as simple as redness and flushing on your face. Unlike other skin conditions, rosacea comes in four different subtypes with corresponding symptoms. These are:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea – Dermatologists call this facial redness. You will experience flushing and persistent facial redness. Small blood vessels could also be visible and symptoms such as swelling, burning or scaling may happen.
  • Papulopustular Rosacea – This is where bumps and pimples happen. Unlike acne, this rosacea subtype comes with raised red patches called plaque.

  • Phymatous Rosacea – This subtype is associated with enlargement of the nose. This is because of the excess tissue on the skin, or a condition called rhinophyma. It also comes with thickening of the skin and irregular surface nodules. In rare cases, this subtype of rosacea could extend outside the nose area.
  • Ocular Rosacea – This rosacea subtype affects the eyes. This could lead to a watery appearance, burning or stinging sensation in the eyes, and irritation. You might also experience swollen eyelids and styes are common for this subtype.

4. A Rosacea Timeline: The Four Stages This Troubling Skin Condition

Most skin conditions range from mild to severe, but the case is different for rosacea. This skin condition has four stages, each stage more severe than the others are.

These stages are:

  • Pre-Rosacea – This stage applies to rosacea patients who have this condition since their youth. There are sudden and episodic redness brought by triggers such as weather, beverages, emotional issues, tobacco, and jobs or workouts that require lifting or loading.
  • The Vascular Stage – This is stage one of rosacea. In this stage, symmetric facial erythema is more persistent, while the nose and cheeks starts to develop permanent dilation of small blood vessels. Ocular or eye irritation could also happen at this stage. You might also start to develop sensitivity to previously used cosmetics, sunscreens, cleansers, or perfumes.
  • Acneiform Stage – This is stage two, which could develop a year after the vascular stage. Facial erythema becomes permanent and unless you get treatment, this could extend on scalp, entire face, and palmar surfaces. This is often confused with facial seborrheic dermatitis or lupus erythematosus.
  • Apex of Rosacea – This is the last stage of rosacea. Facial lesions becomes large inflammatory nodules and facial features often affected by rosacea starts to thicken. There is also a higher possibility of developing an enlarged nose.

It is worth emphasizing that you should try to seek medical assistance at the early signs of rosacea to avoid possible complications.

5. Acne and Rosacea: A Case of Mistaken Identity

When you experience flushing and redness coupled with bumps on your face, you might say it’s just that time of the month; however, rosacea and acne are two different conditions, with somewhat similar characteristics.

Acne is a type of skin condition that happens when oil, dirt, and dead skin cells plug the hair follicles. It usually appears in the face, neck, chest, shoulders and back.

What differentiates acne from rosacea are the following factors:

  • Symptoms – Acne symptoms include whiteheads, blackheads, papules and pimples. Although the papules and pimples or pustules are present in rosacea, whiteheads and blackheads are exclusively due to acne. In case of more severe cases, acne could have large, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin or painful and pus-filled lumps called cystic lesions.
  • formation of acneCauses – Bacteria plays an important role in the formation of acne. The presence of dirt and dead skin cells could be another reason why you have clogged pores, which leads to acne. On the other hand, rosacea causes remain unknown, although there are triggers identified by the experts.
  • Affected Area – Rosacea and acne appears on the face; however, there are cases wherein acne extends well beyond the face and down to your upper body. On the other hand, rosacea is concentrated on forehead, nose, eyes, cheeks and chin. The jaw area is not included, which is a common site for pimples.

Keep in mind that there is no connection between acne and rosacea. Take note of the differences in the symptoms to help you diagnose your symptoms better. Better yet, check for the presence of blackheads. This will help you distinguish between the two conditions.

6. Rosacea and Dermatitis: Clearing the Skin Confusion

Both rosacea and dermatitis are skin conditions. Both skin conditions are also your body’s inflammatory response to various factors, which leads to swelling, itchiness and redness. However, these two conditions have distinct differences.

Dermatitis is a collective term for inflammation of the skin due to various factors. There are different types of dermatitis with their corresponding symptoms:

  • Stasis – Comes with itching, open sores, thickened, discolored skin, and swelling.
  • Allergic Contact – Symptoms are red rash or bumps, itching, swelling, and crusting blisters.
  • Atopic – Commonly referred to as eczema and comes with red, cracked or scaly patches of the skin and small, raised bumps that crust over when scratched.
  • Irritant Contact – Signs of dry patches similar to burns, red rash or bumps, and severe burning or itching sensation.
  • Neurodermatitis – Itchy skin in a single area, leathery or scaly patches, and raised patch that is red or darker than the rest of the skin.
  • Perioral – This type affects the mouth area, which comes with red, pus-filled bumps.
  • Seborrheic – Symptoms include red skin, dandruff, and a yellowish crust on the scalp, face, ears, and other parts of the body.

Here’s how to differentiate rosacea from dermatitis:

  • Causes – The cause of dermatitis depends on the type of disorder affecting your skin. However, some of the more common factors for dermatitis are genes, irritants and contact with allergens such as bath soap and cosmetic products. On the other hand, the exact cause of rosacea is unknown.

  • Treatment – Hydrocortisone creams are the first line of defense against dermatitis conditions. Your doctor might prescribe oral medications, such as antibiotics or antihistamines to manage the symptoms. For rosacea, your doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics coupled with benzoyl peroxide, tretinoin or azelaic acid.
  • Affected Areas – The affected areas are the clue to proper diagnosis. Rosacea affects the T-zone of your face, cheeks, and chin. On the other hand, dermatitis affects other areas of your face and body such as eyebrows, ears, and your hairline. Pus-filled pimples and red swollen bumps are also not present in many dermatitis conditions, but appear in rosacea.

Aside from this, itching is present in dermatitis skin disorders. This characteristic does not happen in rosacea.

7. A Case of Mistaken Identity: Malar or Butterfly Rashes and Rosacea

Also known as a lupus rash, this type of rash is a skin condition characterized by rashes across the cheekbones and over the bridge of the nose; hence the name, butterfly rash. It usually appears red or purple in color, which comes in either blotchy patters or completely red. A butterfly rash is not painful, but it could be itchy and comes with a “hot feeling,” especially for those with severe rashes.

How is it different from rosacea?

Here are the differences between butterfly rashes and rosacea:

  • Symptoms – Malar rash symptoms includes high sensitivity to sun exposure with the rash looking like red pimples. As the rash persists, pimples become larger and more obvious and come with severe itchiness. This type of rash could also develop into red ring-shaped lesion with scales on the edges. This does not happen in rosacea.
  • Causes – The exact cause of butterfly rashes are likewise unknown, although genes and exposure to environmental pollutants could be among the triggers. Other causes are sun exposure, blood syndromes, Lyme disease and seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Affected Area – Butterfly rashes are limited to the cheekbones and bridge of the nose only, which resembles the shape of the butterfly. For rosacea, it also affects your nose bridge; however, it extends on other areas of your face. In some cases, rosacea could develop in the neck and chest.


It may be hard to diagnose which is which when it comes to skin conditions. This is why it is important to schedule a trip to the dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and a treatment plan. Although rosacea is a lifelong condition, this does not mean there is nothing you can do about it. Early diagnosis and treatment could make a big difference.

Therefore, take note of the symptoms of rosacea and the differences enumerated when compared to other skin conditions. Remember the rosacea triggers and follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan to manage and minimize the symptoms.



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