What is Alcoholic Nose?
The sight of a red, swollen and bumpy nose (Alcoholic Nose) is typically associated in most people’s minds with an alcohol excess, but there has actually been no proven link between the two.
The medical term for “drinker’s nose or alcoholic nose” is Rhynophyma and it is actually thought to be associated with Rosacea, a condition in which certain facial blood vessels enlarge, giving the cheeks and nose a flushed appearance. However, people who do not have Rosacea can also develop Rhynophyma.
Initially there may just be redness of the nose and a few small bumps. Over time however the nose becomes more swollen and bulbous. The growth can become quite large with prominence of the skin pores and the appearance of thread veins.
Where alcohol comes in to the equation is that drinking alcohol does worsen the appearance of Rosacea and long term alcohol abuse can make the condition considerably worse, which is why many people associate Rhynophyma with an excess of alcohol.
An example of someone who has an “alcoholic nose” but is not an alcoholic is Sir Alex Fergusson. Sir Alex has Rosacea and he enjoys his wine, so the condition is probably exacerbated by the wine drinking, but he is not an alcoholic.
Red face and Alcohol
The reason why there is often confusion between the typical appearance of Rhynophyma and the face of an alcoholic is because one of the earliest signs of alcohol abuse is a persistently red face due to enlarged blood vessels. This appears because regulation of body’s vascular (blood vessels) system is adversely affected by high levels of alcohol in the blood.
Drinking alcohol can also cause facial flushing. When alcohol is broken down by the liver our bodies create a by-product called acetaldehyde which stimulates the release of histamine, causing flushing and rapid heart rate. Around 40% of north-eastern Asians are thought to experience this even after minimal alcohol consumption.
Spider veins are also a common symptom of alcohol abuse due to increased levels of oestrogen in the body caused by cirrhosis if the liver. These are frequently found on the face.
Rosacea vs Alcoholism
Whilst Rosacea and alcoholism both cause several similar symptoms such as facial flushing and the appearance of facial blood vessels, alcoholism is not thought to be the underlying cause of Rhynophyma, the red, swollen, bumpy nose commonly known as alcoholic or drinker’s nose.