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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20;(3):CD003262.

Interventions for rosacea.

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Dermatology department B1-Q, Leiden University Medical Centre, Albinus dreef 2, Leiden, Netherlands, 2333 ZA.

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Rosacea is a common chronic skin condition affecting the face, characterised by flushing, redness, pimples, pustules, and dilated blood vessels. The eyes are often involved. Frequently it can be controlled, but it is not clear which treatments are most effective.


To assess the evidence for the efficacy and safety of treatments for rosacea.


We searched the Skin Group Specialised Register (February 2005), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 1, 2005), MEDLINE (1966 to February 2005), EMBASE (1980 to February 2005), BIOSIS (1970 to March 2002) and the Science Citation Index (1988 to February 2005). Reference lists of trials and key review articles were searched. Relevant manufacturers and experts were contacted.


Randomised controlled trials in people with moderate to severe rosacea were included. Studies judged by the authors to have seriously flawed methodology were excluded.


Study selection, assessment of methodological quality, data extraction and analysis were carried out by two independent authors. Disagreements were resolved by discussion and consensus.


The evidence provided by twenty-nine included studies was generally weak because of poor methodology and reporting. One of our primary outcome measures, 'quality of life', was not assessed in any of the studies. Only two studies of ocular rosacea were included. Pooled data from two trials involving 174 participants indicated that according to the participants, topical metronidazole is more effective than placebo (odds ratio (OR) 5.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.95 to 12.06). Data pooled from three between-patient trials showed a clear improvement in the azelaic acid group; the rates of treatment success were approximately 70 to 80% versus 50% to 55% (OR 2.45, 95% CI 1.82 to 3.28). A within-patient trial of azelaic cream versus placebo could not be pooled with the other three studies, but also showed good evidence of efficacy. Data pooled from three studies of oral tetracycline versus placebo involving 152 participants showed that, according to physicians, tetracycline was effective (OR 6.06, 95% CI 2.96 to 12.42). Some evidence of efficacy of oral metronidazole was provided by one small study.


The quality of studies evaluating rosacea treatments was generally poor. There is evidence that topical metronidazole and azelaic acid are effective. There is some evidence that oral metronidazole and tetracycline are effective. There is insufficient evidence concerning the effectiveness of other treatments. Good RCTs looking at these treatments are urgently needed.

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