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Difference Between Rosacea, Acne and Eczema

By Dana Severson ; Updated August 14, 2017

Rosacea, acne and eczema are all skin conditions that can affect almost anyone. While each of these conditions hold their own set of symptoms as well as instigating factors, they do possess one similarity. All of these disorders are characterized by an inflammatory response in the body, which manifests on the skin.


The American Academy of Dermatology defines rosacea as an inflammatory condition that manifests as redness or flushing on the skin. It is most commonly seen on the face, but it may eventually diffuse out onto the ears, back and chest. For most people, rosacea starts out looking like tiny spider veins on the nose and cheeks. As the condition worsens, it may develop into small papules and even pustules. Though these red bumps are similar in appearance to acne, rosacea is an entirely different condition.


Acne is a plugged follicle that is suffering from infection and inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is usually a result of dead skin and excess oil clogging the pores, which creates the ideal environment for the P. acnes bacterium. Much like rosacea, acne can manifest in different ways. You may develop what is known as a comedone, more commonly known as a blackhead or a white head. It is also possible to develop a papule or pustule as well as a nodule or cyst.


With eczema, you are dealing with a condition characterized by itchy skin. Medically known as atopic dermatitis, this skin disorder doesn't usually change the appearance of the skin. It's only after you have been itching that you experience other symptoms, including redness, flaking, cracking, crusting and the secretion of fluid, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It is still unknown exactly what causes atopic dermatitis, but it may have something to do with allergies, irritants, environment, stress and immune response.


Both rosacea and acne react positively to some of the same treatments. With either condition, the Mayo Clinic maintains you can see an improvement in the appearance of your skin through the use of topical medications that contain tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide or isotretinoin. They may also respond favorably to oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline or erythromycin. For eczema, you'll need to turn to other forms of treatment. Atopic dermatitis can effectively be treated with corticosteroids, antihistamines and immunomodulators, which are drugs that affect your immune system. Both acne and eczema can also be treated with light therapy. Different forms of light are used to treat each condition.


While it is important to consult a physician before treating these conditions, especially when dealing with eczema and rosacea, there are things that you can do at home to relieve discomfort and even improve the appearance of your skin. Wash with gentle cleansers. If they contain dyes, fragrances or oils, you could see a worsening in your condition. Moisturize your skin and protect it from irritants and harsh weather. Soothe irritated skin with a cool, wet washcloth.

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