What Is Papulopustular Rosacea?

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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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Papulopustular rosacea is the classic form of rosacea that resembles and can be mistaken for acne. This subtype of rosacea is characterized primarily by an area of chronic facial redness and small bumps or pustules that are filled with pus. Most patients experience the condition in cycles of flare ups followed by periods of symptom relief. There is currently no cure, but there are a variety of treatments available that help reduce and control symptoms.

Rosacea is a somewhat common chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed red skin. This disease affects adults and is often progressive. It is possible to mistake rosacea for other skin problems, such as acne, eczema, or an allergic reaction.

Papulopustular rosacea is a distinct form of rosacea in that an area of the face erupts in papules and pustules. The pustules are similar in appearance to whiteheads but are often larger. The affected area can burn and sting and appear to be extremely dry. The pustules can appear on the nose, forehead, and cheeks.

There is no one factor that causes papulopustular rosacea. Medical professionals agree that the condition is likely triggered by a combination of environmental and hereditary causes. Other factors that can aggravate the condition include hot foods, alcohol, and sunlight. Stress, hot baths, and temperature extremes may also irritate rosacea.


There is no diagnostic test for this skin condition. A doctor who suspects the presence of this condition will consider a person’s history of symptoms. A physical examination of the facial skin will often confirm the diagnosis.

A papulopustular rosacea flare up usually lasts from a few weeks to a few months. A flare up is typically followed by a period of symptom relief. The condition rarely resolves with medical treatment.

This skin condition cannot currently be cured. A typical treatment plan for papulopustular rosacea includes prescription medication and lifestyle changes. Dermatologists will often advise patients to improve the health of their skin by using recommended moisturizers, sunscreens, and soaps.

Medications can be either oral or topical. Topical medications are applied to the skin to control inflammation and redness. Tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, and azelaic acid are common medications of this type.

Oral treatment typically involves an antibiotic or isotretinoin. Oral antibiotics can relieve symptoms faster than topical treatments and are prescribed for their anti-inflammatory effect. Isotretinoin inhibits oil production by sebaceous glands but can cause severe side effects.

There are many skin care products available over the counter that contain ingredients that can make papulopustular rosacea worse. Alcohol and acids are two common ingredients that can irritate skin. Patients should consult with a medical professional before using over-the-counter skin care products or cosmetics.


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