Rosacea and eczema are two common skin conditions with very similar symptoms. Combined, the two chronic skin conditions affect over 30 million people in the United States alone. If you’re struggling with a recurring skin condition, you may be asking yourself, “what’s the difference between eczema and rosacea?” While it can be difficult to tell the two apart, there are some key differences you can look out for. Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the differences between eczema and rosacea. Let’s start by first understanding what each condition is.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that can occur at any age. There are seven different types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. While all of these types of eczema have their symptoms and causes, several hallmark symptoms are found across the board. These include dry skin, itchy skin, rashes, scaly patches, blisters, and skin infections.
Eczema can begin during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood, and it can range from mild to severe. Newborn babies can experience eczema within the first weeks or months of life, which is extremely uncommon for rosacea.
What Is Rosacea?
It’s estimated that over 16 million people in the United States suffer from rosacea. This common skin condition causes blushing or flushing of the skin and visible blood vessels in the face. These symptoms can flare up for weeks or months at a time, and then suddenly disappear without warning. Rosacea is often mistaken for acne, eczema, or other skin conditions, which can make diagnosing it difficult.
While rosacea can affect anyone at any time, it’s most common in middle-aged women, although the reason why is unclear.
What’s the Difference Between Eczema and Rosacea?
Unlike eczema, rosacea typically occurs on the cheeks and bridge of the nose. Dermatologists often characterize rosacea by flushing or blushing. Flushing is the sudden, rapid reddening of the skin, which is often accompanied by red blotches. One subtype of rosacea, known as papulopustular rosacea, causes acne-like breakouts around the face and neck, which can help differentiate it from eczema.
Eczema patches typically form on specific areas of the body, which can help rule out the possibility of rosacea. Unlike rosacea, when eczema affects the face, it usually forms around the eyelids and mouth and isn’t accompanied by flushing or visible blood vessels.
Another common skin condition, psoriasis, may also be mistaken for eczema or rosacea. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes silvery-white scales to form on the body. These are often accompanied by raised, red patches of skin, and can be extremely painful.
When people ask, “what’s the difference between eczema and rosacea?” they often think of the symptoms. While this is a key difference between the two, the causes and treatments for each are also very different. Let’s take a look at each below, starting with symptoms and appearance.
Symptoms of Eczema and Rosacea
The most notable difference between eczema and rosacea is their symptoms. Understanding the symptoms of both of these chronic skin conditions can help you better identify what you’re suffering from. Both eczema and rosacea are recurring conditions that may flare up and recede over the years. It also may be possible to have both conditions at the same time.
Here’s a quick look at how the symptoms of eczema and rosacea compare.
Some common symptoms unique to eczema may include:
- Dry skin
- Red bumps that do not ooze or leak
- Red or brown patches of skin
- Prolonged itching or scratching that leaves leave thick, leathery skin
It’s also important to understand where eczema occurs on the body, as this is one of the most important answers to the question, “what’s the difference between eczema and rosacea?” People with eczema will typically have symptoms on areas of the body or face, such as:
- Back of the knees
- Back of the neck
- Crook of the elbow
- Around the mouth
Rosacea is very uncommon in children, unlike eczema which affects nearly one out of every 10 children. Children may be prone to more severe eczema outbreaks, which can affect the chest, stomach, back, or legs.
There are four subtypes of rosacea, each with different symptoms, appearances, and causes. It’s possible to have more than one subtype at the same time. Rosacea can develop at any age, although it is uncommon in children. It is more common among people who are 30- to 50-years-old and fair-skinned.
Rosacea primarily occurs on the face and causes severe blushing or flushing, hotness, redness, bumps, and swelling. These symptoms will typically follow a pattern. First, the central areas of the face are affected, mainly the nose and cheeks. Over time, this will spread to the forehead, chin, and nose. Unlike eczema, rosacea causes areas of redness accompanied by visible blood vessels.
Other common symptoms of rosacea include:
- Pus-filled blemishes which look like whiteheads
- Swollen, red bumps on the cheeks, nose, or chin
- Watery, bloodshot eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Thicken skin on the nose, making it appear larger
- Cysts on the eyelids
What Causes Eczema and Rosacea?
While the exact causes of both eczema and rosacea remain unknown, scientists have identified several factors that are believed to be responsible for both. While there are still no definitive answers to what may be the cause of your skin condition, understanding the potential causes may help you identify what skin condition you may be struggling with.
It is believed that a combination of genetics and the environment is responsible for the development of eczema. If you have eczema, you may have a genetic mutation that stops your skin from maintaining its top protective layer (the epidermis). This mutation allows moisture to leave your skin, which allows bacteria and other irritants to enter your skin more easily.
People with eczema also have triggers that may cause their condition to flare up. These will vary from person to person, but will often involve things found in their environment. Things such as chemicals found in soaps, deodorants, or other skin care products can all cause eczema to flare up.
Since there is a genetic component to eczema, You’re more likely to have eczema if there is a history of dermatitis in your family. You’re also at a higher risk if there is a history of asthma, hay fever, and/or allergens. Allergens are substances like pollen, pet hair, or foods that trigger an allergic reaction.
Like eczema, one of the leading causes of rosacea is thought to be genetics. While the exact relationship is unclear, rosacea appears to run in families. Aside from genetics, there are a few other possible causes of rosacea that differ from eczema. These include:
- Mites: A specific type of mite, known as Demodex folliculorum, can cause rosacea in people who are more susceptible or who have sensitive skin.
- Blood Vessel Issues: Damage to the blood vessels in your face can lead to rosacea. This can be caused by things like drinking alcohol, sun damage, or physical trauma.
- Bacteria: Certain bacterial infections, primarily H. pylori, can cause your skin to appear flushed.
Now that we’ve covered the symptoms and causes, it’s time to go over the final answer to the question, “what’s the difference between eczema and rosacea?”
Treating Eczema and Rosacea
Currently, there is no known cure for either eczema or rosacea. For that reason, treatments for both of these skin conditions typically involve treating the symptoms, and helping manage flare-ups.
Both eczema and rosacea are best managed when you can identify and avoid your triggers. While this isn’t always possible, doing so is one of the best ways to treat your condition. Below are some of the most common treatments for eczema and rosacea.
Common treatments for eczema include:
- Topical corticosteroid creams
- Antibacterial creams
- Laser therapy
- Injectable biologic medications (for severe cases)
- Common treatments for rosacea include:
- Topical medications that reduce visible blood vessels
- Topical antiseptics to reduce pimples and bumps
- Antiparasitic creams
- Laser treatments
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