What Is Alcoholic Nose?

Published: 10/9/20

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You may have heard the terms “drinker’s nose,” bulbous nose,” and “alcoholic nose” used to describe the red, often misshapen nose commonly associated with alcohol abuse. 

Rhinophyma is a form of rosacea that affects the color and appearance of the nose and surrounding skin. At the minimum, a person with rhinophyma will have reddening or inflammation of the nose and cheeks.

And while the red, bulbous “alcoholic nose” carries a social stigma, it is not directly caused by excessive alcohol consumption. 

Recent studies have shown that rhinophyma is not solely linked to excessive alcohol consumption—this skin condition is associated with alcohol intake exceeding 14 drinks per week.  

This means not every person with an “alcoholic nose” drinks heavily, but many heavy drinkers also have rhinophyma. 

It is important to remember this, since people with existing forms of rosacea are more predisposed to developing rhinophyma, which cannot be attributed to alcohol abuse.  

Signs And Symptoms Of Rhinophyma

A person with rhinophyma may exhibit visible symptoms, including:

  • a visibly red nose
  • broken blood vessels on the nose
  • a bulbous, or enlarged nose
  • rough, thickened, or waxy skin
  • inflamed bumps, pimples, or enlarged pores
  • red tip of the nose 
  • visible blood vessels 

Early stages of rhinophyma will present more moderate skin redness and inflammation. Though, as the condition progresses, skin irritation will increase, and if untreated by antibiotics, thick scar tissue may form. 

Other treatments for advanced rhinophyma may include surgery or dermabrasion to help smooth out the rough, dry skin on the nose.  

Causes And Risk Factors

Medical professionals have found that rhinophyma develops when milder forms of rosacea, like ocular rosacea, are left untreated. There is some evidence that suggests genetic predisposition may play a role in developing rhinophyma. 

Rhinophyma and rosacea have been linked to English, Scottish, Scandinavian, and Eastern European ancestry.

In general, four key risk factors make a person more likely to develop rhinophyma: 

  • being middle-aged
  • being male
  • having fair skin
  • having a family history of rosacea

As health care research found, rhinophyma is not directly attributed to alcohol. However, we know that alcohol may exacerbate existing medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease. The same is true of skin conditions like rhinophyma. 

The Link Between Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholic Nose

Research has not proven that alcohol abuse is the cause of rhinophyma. Just like spicy foods make people with rhinophyma lare up, increased alcohol intake only makes rhinophyma more apparent. 

Alcohol abuse also causes numerous conditions that may accelerate the severity or worsen the appearance of rhinophyma.

Alcohol is linked to a number of serious health conditions like cirrhosis and heart failure. Heavy alcohol use also has many effects on the appearance of skin, hair, and fingernails. Alcohol causes blood vessels to enlarge, which may make them more prone to rupture. 

These enlarged blood vessels can give your skin a spidery, bloodshot appearance, and increase flushing around the face and chest. Widened blood vessels mean that more blood can travel just below the skin’s surface, which causes flushing or a reddened appearance.

A person with rosacea or rhinophyma who also drinks heavily will often appear considerably more flushed and reddened than somebody with the same condition who doesn’t drink alcohol. 

The increased blood flow brought on by drinking alcohol only creates more irritation and flare-ups for those with rhinophyma.     

The following guidelines are recommended for people with rhinophyma who do not have a history of alcohol use disorder:   

  • drink in moderation
  • avoid red wine
  • dilute liquors with seltzer
  • drink water in between alcoholic beverages
  • avoid cooking with alcohol

For people with rhinophyma or associated rosacea subtypes, experts encourage avoiding alcohol consumption. If it isn’t possible to avoid alcohol, then very moderate alcohol consumption is recommended to reduce inflammation and improve appearance. 

People with rhinophyma that limit alcohol intake should notice a steep decline in facial redness and a less flushed overall appearance.

Rosacea And Other Skin Conditions Linked To Alcoholism

Excessive alcohol use can be attributed to many skin conditions and health problems that impact the skin.  Besides the symptoms of having a red face, flushing, or red patches, some skin disorders can be signs of alcohol abuse. 

Liver Disease brought on by excessive repeated alcohol use can cause dermatology issues such as:

  • Spider Telangiectasia: radiating spider blood vessels on the face, neck, and hands
  • Jaundice: yellowing of the skin and sclera of the eyes
  • Hyperpigmentation: darkening around the mouth, eyes, and legs
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda: sensitivity to light and skin fragility; blistering and crusty skin
  • Psoriasis: Heavy drinking is associated with new-onset psoriasis—especially in the hands and fingers.
  • Skin Infections: Because of immune system impairment, heavy drinking makes you susceptible to streptococcus, cutaneous tuberculosis, cellulitis, varieties of dermatitis, and urticaria (hives).

Treatment Options For Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol and substance abuse impacts the body and mind. But there is hope for full recovery from long-term alcohol abuse by receiving quality help from an alcohol treatment facility. 

If you or a loved one need to make lifestyle changes, we can help. Contact one of our expert alcohol treatment specialists at Recovering Champions now. Learn about the best rehab and detox programs that will create lasting change.

Our addiction specialists are equipped to answer whatever questions you might have about the rehab process. The main goal is to facilitate recovery and a better life for anybody who asks for help. Call our helpline today to get started on your recovery.