Are you experiencing burning, red, itchy eyes? Several eye conditions are characterized by these symptoms, and one of them is ocular rosacea, which often develops in people who have a chronic skin condition called rosacea that affects the face. For some people, ocular rosacea is the first sign that the facial form of the disease will develop at a later time.
Who gets ocular rosacea and why?
This inflammatory condition primarily affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50. Although men and women are affected equally by ocular rosacea, facial rosacea tends to impact women more than men. Experts have noted that ocular rosacea seems to develop in people who flush or blush easily.
Why people develop ocular rosacea is uncertain. Heredity may be a factor in some cases, as can the presence of eyelash mites or blocked glands in the eyelids. Various environmental factors seem to have a role as triggers or risk factors and can include strenuous exercise, hot baths or saunas, hot or spicy foods, alcohol, sunlight, temperature extremes, certain emotions (e.g., anger, embarrassment), and use of drugs such as cortisone cream or medications that dilate blood vessels.
Symptoms, signs and complications of ocular rosacea
Typical symptoms and signs of ocular rosacea can include the following. These may appear before symptoms of skin rosacea, at the same time, later, or completely on their own.
- Dry, burning, and/or stinging eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Eyes that feel gritty like there is a foreign object in them
- Blurry vision
- Hypersensitivity to light
- Red eyes
- Dilated small blood vessels in the whites of the eye
- Swollen, red eyelids
If your eyes are excessively dry because of a lack of tears, you may develop abrasions on your cornea, which can result in vision problems. Inflamed eyelids may cause a secondary irritation of the cornea, which also can lead to vision loss.
Natural treatment of ocular rosacea
It’s important to understand that while ocular rosacea can usually be controlled using conventional medication (e.g., oral antibiotics) and home eye care techniques, they typically don’t cure the problem. Ocular rosacea is generally a chronic condition or one that recurs repeatedly after remissions. Therefore, it is important to continue to practice healthy eye care practices every day, even when the condition is in remission.
- Gently wash your eyelids at least two times a day with warm water.
- Do not use makeup (including both facial and eye makeup) if your eyes are inflamed. When your eyes are clear, if you must wear makeup, use those that are fragrance-free and noncomedogenic (non-oily).
- Do not wear contact lenses when the condition is active, especially if you have dry eyes.
- Notice what triggers flareups of the condition and avoid them if possible. Common triggers include hot, spicy foods and alcohol.
- Wear sunglasses to protect against both the sun and wind.
- Use a humidifier if you live in a dry climate.
Natural remedies for ocular rosacea can be used along with the healthy eye care practices for best results.
Eyebright. Use of an eyebright tincture diluted in water can be used to wash the eyes. A suggested recipe is 5 to 8 drops of tincture in 16 ounces of cool filtered water. An alternative is to boil 1 teaspoon of eyebright herb in 12 ounces of water. Dilute the strained tea in 8 ounces of cool rose water. Apply either of these eyewashes using cotton balls for 10 to 15 minutes every 4 hours to relieve symptoms. Be sure to use only high-quality eyebright and consult an herbal experts before using this eyewash. You also can drink one to two cups of eyebright tea daily or take the herbal supplement to assist the healing process.
Ginger. Consider drinking ginger tea several times a day to help reduce inflammation associated with ocular rosacea. Ginger can increase the risks of bleeding so if you take blood thinners please consult your doctor.
Turmeric. This herbal remedy possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve symptoms. Drink turmeric tea or mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in 8 ounces of water and dip throughout the day.
Water. The most effective way to treat ocular rosacea is to drink 8 to 10 glasses of pure water daily. This helps ensure your eyes remain hydrated as well as promotes the regeneration of cells in the eyes. In addition to drinking water, use an eye cup to gently rinse your eyes with cool water several times a day.
Cucumber. You may be familiar with placing cucumber slices on the eyelids to help reduce inflammation, and this practice is also suggested if you have ocular rosacea. Leave the slices on the eyelids for 5 to 10 minutes to reduce dryness and swelling. You also may want to drink cucumber juice for its hydrating properties.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that people with dry eye associated with rosacea can experience a significant improvement in their eye symptoms after taking omega-3 fatty acids for as little as one month.
Aloe vera. The aloe vera plant can be used in several different ways to relieve ocular rosacea symptoms. You can sip on aloe vera juice (4 ounces daily) to help fight inflammation. An equal mixture of aloe vera juice and water can be applied to the eyelids using cotton balls to soothe inflammation and itching. You also can use cotton balls to apply aloe vera gel to the eyelids. [Editor’s Note: Lily of the Desert makes a variety of aloe products including topical gelly and drinkable formulas.]
Green tea. The anti-inflammatory properties of green tea can help if you consume several cups of green tea daily. You also can apply wet green tea bags to your eyelids or dab cooled green tea on your eyelids using cotton balls. [Editor’s Note: We suggest green tea from Bigelow Tea. While you apply tea bags to your eyes, enjoy one of their many flavors of tea.]
Bhargava R et al. A randomized controlled trial of omega 3 fatty acids in rosacea patients with dry eye symptoms. Current Eye Research 2016 Oct; 41(10): 1274-80
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