Everything in moderation, right? While that might be the case for some, it’s easier said than done. While we all have that one person in our life who can go out on the weekend, drink alcohol in excess, and not touch a drop throughout the week, that doesn’t speak on the population as a whole. For most of us, drinking alcohol one night will lead to one thing or another; whether that’s a several-day binge or hard drugs, the outcomes are bad. With that being said, alcohol in moderation can still cause issues, such as arrests due to drunken driving or injuries caused by falls.

Despite its legality, we must bear in mind that alcohol is a poison. Even though it’s enjoyed by the masses, it can destroy a person’s life. Even worse, according to the most recent National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) report, 85.6 percent of people age 18 and older reported experimenting with alcohol at one point in their lives. While that statistic isn’t too alarming, the fact that binge drinking and heavy alcohol use are so high is a problem. An estimated 25.8 percent of people over the age of 18 reported binge drinking in the past month, with another 6.3 percent engaging in heavy alcohol use in the previous month.

High-intensity drinking is another issue that causes severe health problems, and it may lead you to wonder if rhinophyma is caused by drinking too much. Well, high-intensity drinking is defined as consuming alcohol at levels two or more times the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds. Those who consume alcohol in this fashion put themselves at a 70 times higher risk of having an alcohol-related emergency room visit. Those who consume alcohol three times the gender-specific binge threshold were 93 times more likely to visit an emergency room.  

The dangers of alcohol are clear, but do you know what happens when you consume alcohol? One such issue, known as “alcohol nose or drinker’s nose,” is a skin condition that causes a bumpy, red, or swollen appearance on the person’s nose and cheeks. We believed it was caused by the overconsumption of alcohol for many years, but research released a few years ago disproved that theory. While alcohol causes many issues, “alcohol nose” is something we don’t have to fear when drinking. However, there are several other dangers we should be concerned about.

The information found that rhinophyma, the medical term for alcoholic nose, has nothing to do with how much or how little a person drinks alcohol. There’s actually little connection between alcoholism and rhinophyma, so what perpetuated that myth, and why do we believe it exists?

What Does ‘Alcoholic Nose’ Mean?

The phrase “alcoholic nose” is a skin condition that causes a red, swollen, and bumpy appearance on a person’s nose. Although it has been commonly referred to as a drinker’s nose, it’s a skin condition known as rhinophyma. Rhinophyma is another type of skin condition known as rosacea, which has been known to cause chronic inflammation of your skin. The inflammation causes broken blood vessels and bumps both on and around your nose. This gives it the swollen, red, and bumpy appearance that’s attributed to the alcoholic nose. 

There are four types of rosacea, with rhinophyma considered to be the worst. The condition gradually forms over several years. It’s most commonly the result of not treating a less severe form of rosacea when it first appears. While the condition is prevalent in women, it’s more widespread in men. Those with fair skin or a family history of rosacea are at much higher risk of suffering from an “alcoholic nose.” 

Does Alcoholism Cause Rhinophyma?

It was once believed that excessive alcohol consumption was responsible for the development of rhinophyma. Since alcohol abuse causes blood vessels to enlarge in the neck and face, leading to redness or flushed skin, the idea that alcoholism caused rhinophyma wasn’t far-fetched and held up in the medical community for years. However, in 2015, the theory was disproved by the University of South Florida, as many of the individuals who participated in the study were clinically diagnosed with rhinophyma but didn’t drink regularly. 

Despite this theory of alcohol abuse causing drinker’s nose, researchers never uncovered the cause of rhinophyma in these patients. However, evidence was shown that genetic and ethnic predisposition might have caused this skin disfiguration to run in the families of Scottish, English, Eastern European, and Scandinavian descent. Even with these facts present, rhinophyma is a mystery today.

Does Alcohol Affect Rosacea?

alcoholic nose

Although physicians proved that alcohol abuse does not cause rosacea or rhinophyma, it can actually aggravate the condition. Nearly two out of three patients with rosacea will experience flare-ups when they drink alcohol. The substance aggravates symptoms of rosacea because consumption enlarges the body’s blood vessels. When our blood vessels open up, they allow additional blood to flow to the surface of our skin. In turn, this causes a more flushed look, referred to as “alcohol flush.” The redness can then spread anywhere on your body, but you’ll notice it most on your chest, shoulder, and face. For those dealing with rosacea, alcohol will make it much worse. 

For those suffering from this skin condition, it was found that red wine is most likely to trigger these flare-ups or cause worse rosacea than other alcoholic beverages. Why? Well, doctors believe it’s due to a chemical in red wine that enlarges blood vessels more than other types of alcohol, which lets more blood than usual flow to the surface of your skin. 

Fortunately, there are ways to manage these symptoms. Here is what you can do:

  • Avoid red wine at all costs.
  • Don’t cook your food with alcohol.
  • Drink a tall glass of water between alcoholic drinks.
  • Dilute your alcoholic beverages with seltzer water.
  • Drink in moderation.
  • Abstain from alcohol entirely.

We all have different levels of sensitivity toward alcohol. For that reason, we can’t say that one glass will be OK. Those dealing with rosacea must test while drinking alcohol and create their own boundaries to avoid severe flare-ups of the alcoholic nose. With that said, it could mean stopping drinking altogether, while for others, it could mean severely limiting their intake. Restricting your intake will greatly reduce sudden outbreaks and prevent you from developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD)

The Stigma of Rhinophyma

A person that suffers from rhinophyma can also encounter the stigma associated with the condition. As with various types of health conditions, stigma is a significant barrier to that individual seeking help for their disorder. SInce rhinophyma is extremely visible, those with the condition are self-conscious and will remain in the shadows. They’re opposed to meeting new people or conducting basic affairs like going to the grocery store. Unless you’re in someone else’s shoes, it’s hard to understand what they’re going through. 

Since rhinophyma was once considered a side effect of alcohol consumption, many people are still misinformed and will make rash or harsh judgments on someone, assuming they’re an alcoholic. Despite there being no connection to alcohol use disorder, it’s a stigma we’re battling to change.


Can Rhinophyma Be Treated?

Fortunately, there are some options available to you if you’re looking to treat your rhinophyma. The most widely used applications are surgery and medication. Some medication will help you control your rhinophyma. However, once the condition has manifested, it’s challenging to manage it with medication alone. Milder cases and those identified as side effects of rosacea can be managed with medication with varying levels of success. Some of the drugs include:

  • Topical and oral antibiotics that reduce inflammation and redness.
  • Topical medications to limit inflammation.
  • Oral medications that prevent your skin glands from producing excess oil.

When rhinophyma has fully manifested itself, surgery will be the most effective option for you. Since rhinophyma can lead to a disfigurement of the nose, your airways could become obstructed. If that’s the case, medication won’t help. The longer this goes on, the more likely disfigurement can become permanent. If you’ve noticed changes, it’s important to visit your doctor immediately to prevent this from occurring. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist today if you need treatment, as it can restore the quality of your life.

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