Exploring the myths behind Drinker’s Nose and examining potential treatments in the UK.
Do you suffer from alcoholic’s nose? Are you addicted to alcohol? Contrary to popular belief, you can have the symptoms of ‘drinker’s nose’ even when you don’t suffer from alcoholism. Read on to find out why this condition plagues you and what can be done about it.
If you have a drinker’s nose and you are an alcoholic, you can get help on our pages. Call us on 0203 955 7700 or use the consultation service at the top of the page.
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[i], and phyma = a nodule, swelling, or rounded tumour on the skin[ii]. Put the two together, and you have the condition known as alcoholic nose.
Rhinophyma is characterised by a bumpy skinned, bulbous nose that takes on a rounded shape. It is the result of untreated rosacea, which has been left to worsen over time. If left indefinitely, the bulbous alcoholic’s nose will become disfigured and can block the airways of the nose.
The body transports oxygen around by way of your blood, but the larger veins and arteries aren’t able to reach the surface of your skin. Instead, tiny blood vessels carry the oxygen here, and in other hard to reach areas. These blood vessels are known as blood capillaries.
When you have rosacea, the blood capillaries on the nose, cheeks, and other areas of the body become swollen and sometimes burst. When they burst, they leave reddened patches that produce bumps over time.
Rosacea is considered a long term condition, but it can be treated to lessen the effects[iii]. Early symptoms of rosacea include burning, redness, or stinging when you put on face creams or moisturizers. Affected areas can hurt when you put water on them, too. Another early warning sign is a tendency to blush since this process also brings the blood to your face.
Early Symptoms of Rosacea:
- Redness on the forehead, neck, cheeks, nose, or chin
- A rash, itching, or swelling when you use certain skincare products
Intermediate Symptoms of Rosacea:
- Permanently reddened patches of skin on the face
- Patches of dry skin on the face
- Swelling around the cheeks, nose, and under eye areas
- Thickening of the skin on the nose
Symptoms of Advanced Rosacea:
- Permanent redness in the cheeks, nose, forehead, and neck areas
- Rhinophyma, also known as Alcoholic’s Nose
What is Rhinophyma?
Rhinophyma is an advanced stage of Rosacea. It is the end stage, where the damage is irreversible without surgery. At this stage, the burst blood cells have permanently reddened the skin, while the nose has become rounded at the tip, bulbous, and the skin on it has turned bumpy. In this final stage, the nose is disfigured.
The main risk of rhinophyma is that the airways can become blocked and infected at this late stage. It is unsightly to look at and the damage is there for good. Only cosmetic surgery can help when your rosacea has reached Rhinophyma stages.
Symptoms of Rhinophyma (Alcoholic Nose):
- Enlarged bulbous nose
- Thickened skin of the nose
- Waxy, rough skin with a yellow hue
- Visible oil glands[iv]
Are Rosacea and Rhinophyma the same thing?
No, although Rhinophyma occurs because of advanced Rosacea, they are classed as two separate conditions. If you successfully monitor rosacea, you could potentially avoid the condition reaching the finals stages which cause Rhinophyma.
Does Alcohol Cause Alcoholic’s Nose?
No, alcohol is not the primary cause of rosacea or of rhinophyma, but it can aggravate a pre-existing condition. Some of the symptoms they share are also similar.
The reason why there is often confusion between the typical appearance of Rhinophyma 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 cause the same facial flushing as rosacea[v]. 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.
How does alcohol affect your Rosacea?
Alcohol can worsen your Rosacea but it’s one of many things that can do so. Since alcohol causes the same flushing affect to the face that rosacea does, the two conditions are often confused or mistakenly linked together. A recent study[vi] cited many identified triggers of rosacea but alcohol was not listed among them. It is widely accepted, however, that the tannins in red wine and in tea and coffee can make your condition worse[vii].
Things that make Rosacea and Rhinophyma worse
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.
Some things to avoid if you have rosacea include:
- Spicy foods
- Tea and coffee
- Too much sunlight
- Extremes of temperature
You should avoid picking at, scratching, or touching your face if possible.
The Treatment of Rosacea
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 recommends 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[viii]. 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.
The Treatment and Prognosis of Rhinophyma
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 long wait on the NHS for this treatment[ix]. At this stage, you have entered the final stage of a developed case of rosacea. Once you develop Rhinophyma there is no going back without surgery.
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.
The Stigma of Alcoholics Nose
Those that don’t drink often, yet that have developed rosacea or rhinophyma, often have to go through life with people judging their appearance. We know that alcohol does affect the appearance[x] in several ways, so the common misconception is understandable, if still wrong.
Only a handful of us get rosacea and, of that number, no more than 20% of people will develop rhinophyma[xi]. The stigma is fed by a lack of understanding of this rare dermatological condition. The good news is that you can fight back against the stigma by spreading awareness on social media. There are plenty of clinical studies which will help you prove you don’t need to be an alcoholic to develop rhinophyma.
Are you Addicted to Alcohol?
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.
Further Help for those with Rosacea
If you don’t suffer from drug or alcohol addiction but you would like support for your Rosacea, there are places you can turn to. The United Kingdom Rosacea Support Group may be able to answer any questions you have and point you in the right direction for treatment. There is a further Rosacea Support Group on Facebook that might be of interest to you, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is An alcoholic’s nose?
Can you get alcoholic’s nose from drinking too much?
What’s the medical term for An alcoholic’s nose?
Does alcoholic’s nose make your skin bumpy?
Does alcoholic’s nose affect your cheeks, too?
How common is An alcoholic’s nose?
How long do you have to drink to get an alcoholic’s nose?
Can I get an alcoholic’s nose if I don’t drink?
How do you treat Rhinophyma?