Have you been told you are suffering from alcoholic nose? We took an in-depth look at this condition, to try and sniff out the link between alcoholic nose and drinking.
Alcoholic nose is a nickname for a subtype of rosacea. If that sounds a bit like Greek, then you should continue reading… especially if anyone has ever told you that you suffer from alcoholic nose.
We wanted to clear up any myths regarding this condition, just to be clear. All too often, we hear clients coming to us who complain of this condition… but the link between alcoholism and alcoholic nose is tenuous at best. After all, if being an alcoholic caused a swollen, red, bumpy, and irritated nose, there would be a far larger number of people walking around with swollen faces.
Before we delve any further into the world of alcoholic nose and explain the symptoms, signs, and causes of this condition, let’s direct you to the right places. If you came to us because you think you might be an alcoholic, then you are on the right tracks. You can call us anytime of the day or night if you need help to get off drink or to stop taking drugs. The number is 0203 955 7700.
What is Alcoholic Nose?
Alcoholic nose is the nickname we give to the slightly more complex condition called Rhinophyma. Let’s break that down into its etymology. Rhino = of the nose, and phyma = a nodule, swelling, or rounded tumour on the skin. Put the two together, and you have the condition known as alcoholic nose.
This disorder sees the blood capillaries of the nose and cheeks burst, leaving a reddened swelling that comes out as a bumpy, swollen, bright red coloured rash. The blood capillaries are the tiny little vessels that carry oxygenated blood to the smaller regions of your body. While the veins and arteries work on the larger areas of the body, to get oxygenated blood to the skin’s surface requires more delicate systems. Blood capillaries are responsible for this task, and when they swell and burst on the face like this, we call it Rosacea.
Rosacea is a condition all of its own, but it has many sub-types. Rhinophyma is one sub-type of Rosacea, which is an umbrella skin condition term for diseases which cause a reddening of the skin due to swollen or burst blood vessels. Rhinophyma is always concentrated around the nose, causing it to appear bulbous, swollen, and bright red.
The problem with rhinophyma is that it has long since been wrongly associated with alcoholics and alcoholism. It is a misconception that drinking alcohol causes alcoholic nose… but the science points to drink aggravating the condition.
Do Alcoholics Always Get Alcoholic Nose?
No, not all alcoholics get alcoholic’s nose. Rhinophyma only affects those who already have a propensity towards rosacea. According to Bupa, the private healthcare provider, around 1 in 10 people in the UK have rosacea. This skin condition also affects more men than it does women and is perhaps less noticed in women on account of the societal pressure placed upon them to wear make up to cover it up.
Statistically speaking, this means that more women alcoholics are likely to suffer from Rhinophyma than men do. When you have had rosacea for many years, you are likely to develop rhinophyma as a result. One of the symptoms of rosacea is this thickening and reddening of the skin. This is particularly prevalent around the nasal area. This means that both people with ordinary rosacea and those with rhinophyma can be described (mistakenly) as having alcoholic’s nose.
Some of the early symptoms of rosacea include:
- Rosacea starts with a tendency towards blushing. This feeling of being too warm in the cheeks, burning, or stinging, will come and go. It is normal for teenagers to experience this blushing feeling as their hormones take control. The feeling of rosacea on the cheeks and nose is a similar one.
- Redness frequently appearing on the forehead, neck, cheeks, nose, and chin.
- Stinging or burning sensations when you wash your face or use beauty/skincare products.
- A severe redness or rash when you use an upsetting product (skincare that isn’t for super sensitive skin).
As rosacea progresses and if you leave it untreated, your symptoms will develop into something a little worse. The flushing of your face will bring up blood capillaries which swell up in the aforementioned problem areas. When they swell, they may well burst. When they are inflamed and itchy, you scratch them and do damage. Your blood capillaries burst under the skin and you are left with a permanent redness there. This is the exact reason why dermatologists tell you not to pick at your face.
At this intermediate stage, you can expect to experience:
- Areas of your face that are permanently reddened by burst blood capillaries.
- Small lumps will appear. They are usually filled with a yellowish pus and will be red or pink in colour.
- Dry skin in large patches over the face.
- Swelling of the face, particularly in the nose and eye region. A puffing of the cheeks is not uncommon.
- Patches of your skin will start to become discoloured. They will gradually redden if nothing is done but will start off as a yellowish colour.
- Your skin will start to thicken around the nose.
When you are in the final stages of rosacea, you will either develop alcoholic’s nose, or you will have permanent redness across the cheeks, nose, forehead, chin, and even other parts of the body. Once enough blood vessels burst, you will be unable to undo this damage and it will appear as a permanent reddening.
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.
How Can You Stop Your Rosacea Progressing?
There are certain known things that can make your rosacea worse, and that can even bring about the onset of rhinophyma if you don’t keep on top of it by seeking medical help. Among the triggers for rhinophyma are spicy foods, cheeses, caffeine, hot drinks, and aerobic exercise… but the one we are interested in, is alcohol.
There are certain types of alcohol that make rhinophyma worse. This is because it widens the blood capillaries, allowing the blood to travel through more of them, faster. It also results in a greater amount of damage to the blood vessels because of the inflammation. At the top of the list of alcohol that should be avoided if you have rosacea or alcoholic’s nose, is red wine.
Nobody is fully sure as to why, but scientists speculate that the tannins in red wine are the reason it widens the blood vessels. Interestingly enough, they believe these are the same chemicals found in wine that give you such a sore head in the morning! While oxygenation of the blood is usually considered a good thing, when you have rosacea it makes things worse, greatly increasing your chances of developing rhinophyma in the future.
What Can Be Done to Treat Alcoholic Nose?
If you are one of the few who have developed rhinophyma due to alcoholism (meaning that you already had rosacea, but that your drinking has made it permanent) then Help 4 Addiction can give you some relief. We run a rehab placement service that will help you to find the best rehab clinic near you, capable of helping you to quit drinking for good.
We can help you with each and every stage of both alcohol addiction, and drug addiction. Whatever your substance abuse problem, we can put you in touch with the best rehab service in your area, throughout England and Wales. We can talk to you about online therapy, fill you in on at-home detox programs for alcoholics, and can even clue you up on what alcohol withdrawal symptoms you can expect.
Regardless of how your rhinophyma came to be as bad as it is, however, the treatment for this condition is the same. However, if you go to a doctor, they will tell you to stop drinking as a good starting point.
Treating your Alcoholic’s Nose
If you have developed, or are in the middle of developing, alcoholic’s nose through rosacea, your GP will want to start you on a course of antibiotics. Retinoids may also be used to try and minimise the swelling, redness, and inflammation. Medical News Today recommend that erythromycin, metronidazole, or tetracycline are likely to be used to eradicate the early symptoms of rosacea.
Your GP might prescribe topical creams that need to be applied to the area of the skin which often flares up. This cream must be applied as per the instructions on the packet. If it says use it three times a day, then use it three times a day. Don’t only turn to the cream when it flares back up again as this will increase your resistance to the medicine.
If your alcoholic’s nose is irreversibly damaged, you may be eligible for surgery to correct it. Since this is technically a plastic surgery, you will have a fairly long wait on the NHS for this treatment. Unfortunately, it isn’t the kind of thing the doctors at any one of the rehab clinics in England and Wales we place you in can help with. Not even in private rehab.
Minimizing the Symptoms of Alcoholic Nose
Since getting surgery for an alcoholic’s nose isn’t really much of an option here in the UK, there are some things you can do to stop the progression of both rosacea and rhinophyma.
Health professionals recommend that you do the following things to stop your condition getting any worse:
- Eating spicy foods such as chilli-based ingredients.
- Smoking tobacco – or anything else, including vaping as not enough research currently exists in this area.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks, again, we can help you to go through the tricky detox period and can even help you find the ideal rehab clinic of your dreams.
- Avoid too much sunlight, keep your cheeks and nose covered in a high performance sun block when you are out in it.
- Do not rub or touch your face, particularly when it is flushed.
- Do not pick at your face.
- Keep out of extremes in temperature. Avoid freezer areas or overly warm rooms.
There are also creams you can use that will soothe the skin and act in a more holistic – yet proactive – way. Using a tea-tree based makeup, or using a green colour balancing stick, can help cover up the worst of it while still soothing the affected area. Aloe vera is a natural skin and inflammation soother, and honey-based soaps can keep the skin soft to avoid dry patches.
Once you have stopped drinking alcohol and you want to recover from alcoholic’s nose, it can be difficult to accept that there is no hard and fast cure for this condition. Rhinophyma will be with you forever, unless you pay for a surgery. Once it has developed, management of the symptoms is one of the ways you can live a normal life, without it affecting your daily life.
Help for Addiction at a Rehab Clinic Near You
Before you rush off to compare prices for surgical treatment of your alcoholic’s nose, let’s remind you once again that we are here to help. Whether it is drug addiction or alcohol addiction that is causing your rhinophyma, we are able to point you in the direction of a detox clinic near you.
Provided that you live in the UK and that you are suffering from an addiction – substance abuse based or otherwise – you can find help at the end of the phone. Each of our advisors has years of experience in matching new clients to the rehab clinics that can best help them.
When you call us, we will ask you a series of questions. These are aimed at finding out what your likes, dislikes, hobbies, interests, and medical history are. Once we have a well-rounded image of your personality, we can match you with a rehab clinic near you that focuses on the things you resonate with. When clients come to us, we give them a better chance of finding a rehab clinic that will help them get off drink or drugs the first time around. It is that swiftness of an end to addiction that is lacking in free healthcare treatments in the UK.
UPDATE: THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED ON 23/12/2020 by Author Nick Conn AND IS DUE TO BE REVIEWED IN 2022. ALL OUR CONTENT IS REVIEWED FOR ACCURACY BY OUR IN-HOUSE TEAM OF THERAPISTS.