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What Is Alcoholic Nose? (Rhinophyma)

Man looking straight ahead, pondering if he will develop an alcoholics nose

Alcoholic nose, or drinkers nose, is a skin condition commonly characterized by a bumpy, red, or swollen appearance of the nose and cheeks. For years, it was widely believed that this condition was caused by alcohol use disorder or alcoholism. However, more recent research has actually determined that alcoholic nose, or rhinophyma, has nothing to do with how much or how little a person drinks.

To learn more about red nose and alcohol, Vertava Health’s treatment for alcoholism can help. Reach out to us at 844.470.0410 to learn more about alcoholic nose and how we can assist with alcohol use disorder.

What Is Alcoholic Nose?

Alcoholic nose is a skin condition commonly characterized by a swollen, red, and bumpy appearance on the nose. While this look is frequently referred to as alcoholic nose or drinkers nose, it’s actually a skin disorder called rhinophyma. Rhinophyma is a subtype of another skin condition called rosacea, which causes chronic inflammation of the skin. The chronic inflammation causes broken blood vessels and pustules on or around the nose, giving it the red, swollen, and bumpy look often associated with alcoholic nose. Of the four subtypes of rosacea, rhinophyma is considered one of the worst. It forms gradually over the years and is typically due to not treating a less severe form of rosacea early on. While women are diagnosed with rhinophyma, the condition is much more common in men. People with fair skin or a family history of rosacea are at a higher risk of suffering from an alcoholic nose.

Can Alcoholism Cause Rhinophyma?

It was previously thought that excessive alcohol consumption was the cause of rhinophyma, hence the nickname alcoholic nose or drinkers nose. Alcohol use can cause vessels to enlarge in the face and neck, creating redness or flushed skin. Due to this, the idea that alcoholism could cause rhinophyma held up for many years. However, recent research disproved this theory. Experts learned that ethnic and genetic predispositions might cause this disfiguring skin condition as it runs in families of English, Scottish, Scandinavian, or Eastern European descent. Despite these facts, the known cause of rhinophyma remains a mystery today.

How Alcohol Affects Rosacea

Although alcohol use does not cause rhinophyma or rosacea, it can aggravate the condition. As many as two out of three patients with rosacea experience flare-ups when they consume alcohol. Alcohol aggravates symptoms of rosacea because drinking enlarges the body’s blood vessels. When the blood vessels are more open, they allow more blood to flow to the skin’s surface, creating a flushed look that is typically referred to as the “alcohol flush.” The redness can spread anywhere on the body but is most noticeable on the face, shoulders, and chest. For those already suffering from redness due to rosacea, alcohol can worsen this symptom.

To manage these symptoms of rosacea, doctors suggest that patients with this condition:

  • Avoid red wine
  • Don’t cook with alcohol
  • Have a tall glass of water in between every alcoholic drink
  • Drink in extreme moderation
  • Dilute alcohol drinks with seltzer water
  • Stop drinking alcohol

Since everyone has different levels of sensitivity to alcohol, those suffering from rosacea will have to test and build their own boundaries to avoid severe flare-ups of alcoholic nose. A recent survey of rosacea patients found that 90 percent of responders found that limiting their alcohol consumption helps significantly to reduce sudden outbreaks.

The Stigma of Addiction and Alcoholic Nose

Although an alcoholic nose has nothing to do with drinking, the general public still widely associates this condition with alcohol use. Due to this close association, those suffering from rhinophyma often feel self-conscious not just because of their appearance but because others might assume they’re an alcoholic. This assumption brings up a much larger issue surrounding the addiction community: the stigma surrounding those suffering from this heartbreaking disease. People with rhinophyma are so scared of being labeled an alcoholic that some report avoiding social activities or going out regularly. In doing so, the stigma of addiction continues to thrive. This stigma results in prejudice, avoidance, rejection, and discrimination against people with addiction because others are unwilling to show compassion to those different from them. People can start deconstructing the stigma of addiction by:

  • Learning about the disease
  • Talking about addiction with others
  • Breaking down misconceptions about addiction
  • Recognizing fact-based warning signs of alcohol use
  • Speaking up when someone is mistreated because of their addiction
  • Offering compassionate support to those struggling
  • Avoiding hurtful labels like “addict” and “drunk.”

The misconception that rhinophyma equals alcoholism is an outdated stereotype that can breed negative self-esteem and social anxiety. It can also prevent those actually suffering from alcoholism from getting the help they need.

Find Help for Alcohol Use at Vertava Health

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use, Vertava Health can help. Our team of addiction specialists is dedicated to helping patients and their families cope with all stages of this debilitating disorder. To learn more about how we can help you overcome addiction, contact us today at 844.470.0410.