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What is Alcohol Nose?

What is Alcohol Nose? | Just Believe Detox

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Alcohol nose, or drinker’s nose, is the common name for a condition known as rhinophyma. This condition manifests as a reddish-colored, and sometimes oddly-shaped, nose.

In extreme cases, the redness of the nose associated with alcohol nose can turn into more of a “purpling” of the user’s nose. The nose may even become severely misshapen, sometimes shifting position and growing more bulbous as the condition becomes more severe.

If treated early, the condition can be managed quite easily. However, if it’s left untreated, the nose will start to take on the color and shape of that of a stereotypical drinker.

W.C. Fields was a famous comedian of the 1920s and 1930s. He was infamous for being a heavy drinker, and was also well-known because of how round and red his nose had become. His heavy drinking caused so many red bumps on his nose that he began to refer to them as “gin blossoms”.

A Deeper Look at Alcohol Nose

Drinker’s nose is more likely to occur in drinkers with a family history of Rosacea. After all, rhinophyma is simply a severe case of rosacea. However, rhinophyma is more common in men, while traditional rosacea is more common in women.

Women can suffer from drinker’s nose, but it is most common in fair-skinned men ages 50-70. The red patches consistent with rhinophyma not only can occur on the nose, but on the cheeks and chin as well. Visible red bumps and blood vessels will arise in the affected areas, and features (most typically the nose) can become swollen and oddly-shaped.

Continued drinking can also lead to ocular rosacea, or rosacea in the region of the eyes. Side effects consistent with this are swelling of the eyelids, conjunctivitis (pink eye), or an itchy/gritty feeling in the eyes. People suffering from ocular rosacea will also feel a slight burning sensation as well.

On top of all the physical symptoms of drinker’s nose, the social stigma attached to the condition adds insult to injury.

Recent Rhinophyma News

In recent years, many have tried to argue that drinker’s nose isn’t related to drinking at all. If you were to do an internet search for the term, you would see many articles arguing that a person can suffer from the condition regardless of their level of alcohol intake.

However, the overwhelming majority of medical and skincare professionals, believe this sever form of rosacea is, in fact, clearly linked to drinking. This was determined by a recent skincare study published in the Journal of The American Academy of Dermatology.

Because of the cutting social stigma attached, though, many medical and skincare professionals are urging discretion when diagnosing patients with alcohol nose. The National Rosacea Society was quick to point out that the study mentioned above was only a small study published within the Journal. The NRS also stated that if a person has a family history of rosacea or alcoholism, that needs to be taken into account when reaching a diagnosis.

Alcohol and Rhinophyma

Reducing alcohol consumption can help to slow the onset of rhinophyma, but the condition can have other causes. Spicy food, medications, vigorous exercise, extreme temperatures, and stress can all contribute to an increased appearance of drinker’s nose.

Diagnosing Rhinophyma

A doctor can diagnose rhinophyma just by performing a visual exam. Rosacea, in all forms, can develop at any age but it typically starts to show itself after a person reaches the age of 30. It can flare up and disappear at random, and is considered “chronic”, but that doesn’t mean it’s untreatable.

Some other lesser-known symptoms of drinker’s nose include:

  • enlarged pores
  • Oily or dry skin
  • Thickened skin that looks waxy or rough
  • Skin scarring/pitting

If you, or someone you know are experiencing any of these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor.

Treatment Options

Medications and changes in lifestyle are typically enough to stop the onset of rhinophyma, and stop rosacea in its tracks. Typically topical medications or antibiotics are prescribed to treat the inflamed skin.

To help reduce outbreaks, the National Rosacea society suggests keeping a journal of what appears to trigger rosacea flareups. Sun exposure, stress, hot baths, heavy exercise, wind, hot weather, and alcohol consumption are all common triggers of the condition. In fact, sufferers of drinker’s nose typically cite red wine as the cause more often than other types of alcohol.

People also should look out for certain spices. Things in the pepper family that contain the chemical capsaicin (i.e. red and cayenne pepper) can increase the chance of outbreaks. In addition to spices, be mindful of other foods like coffee and dairy.

In extreme cases of alcohol nose, a medical professional may ask to do a biopsy of the discolored area to make sure it isn’t anything more serious. If that’s the case, a doctor may recommend shaving off excess skin, sculpting the area, and use dermabrasion to help treat the affected area.

Taking note of any triggers you may have, seeking the advice of a medical professional, knowing your family history with respect to rosacea, are three great steps toward minimizing the effects of alcohol nose. Unfortunately, there isn’t a definite cure to the condition, but making smart lifestyle choices is the best way that you can protect against the most frustrating side effects.

Moving Forward

While it’s true “alcohol nose” may have other causes beside alcohol, it’s a widely-accepted belief of the professionals that there is a close connection. Alcohol is what’s known as a vascodilator, which means by its very nature it will expand veins and blood vessels and make them more noticeable.

If you, or someone you know, are dealing with rhinophyma and alcohol is a possible trigger, then perhaps a lifestyle change is in order. However, it often takes more than just realizing you need to stop drinking to actually stop drinking. If you find yourself in this position, we are more than happy to help.

Just Believe Detox Center can help put you on the path to recovery with our trained counselors and guided rehab programs. Even if you’re only looking for resources on where to turn, or what to do next, reach out to us today and let us help. It’s what we do best.


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