What Is Alcoholic Nose? (Rhinophyma)

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Alcoholic nose, medically referred to as rhinophyma, is a condition that causes the nose to become bumpy, red, and swollen. The pores on the nose can become enlarged and the eyes may be extra dry. The color of the nose can also appear to be purple, and referred to as “purple nose”. In addition, the patient’s cheeks are often affected, displaying similar characteristics.

Rhinophyma, or alcoholic bulbous nose, was for the longest time believed to be the result of drinking excessive alcohol. However, recent studies have revealed that alcoholism has nothing to do with it. Now that we know this, how did rhinophyma come to be known as “alcoholic nose” in the first place?

Rhinophyma Pictures

Alcoholism and Rhinophyma

Because it was assumed that alcohol abuse could lead to the drinker’s blood vessels becoming enlarged in their neck and face, alcoholism was assumed to be the cause of rhinophyma. In fact, this assumption was considered fact for many years.

It wasn’t until 2015 that the University of South Florida Morsani College conducted a study that disproved this long-standing theory. Many of the participants of the study who suffered from alcoholic nose didn’t even drink, thus officially putting an end to the connection.

Although the actual cause of rhinophyma remains unknown, we know that it’s an extreme form of rosacea, a condition that causes the skin to experience chronic inflammation. As one of the worst types of rosacea, rhinophyma gradually develops over the years, eventually resulting in the red, bumpy, and inflamed appearance that alcoholic nose is known for.

Certainly, this new theory can help those that struggle with the condition, as many that are diagnosed with rhinophyma are wrongly judged to be heavy drinkers. Plenty of people suffering from rhinophyma have stayed home for fear of being shamed in public.  Today, if you’re battling this chronic inflammation, you don’t have to worry about this mislabeling. The more this information gets out there, the less judgment will occur.

Can Excessive Drinking Cause Alcoholic Bulbous Nose?

While it is now clear that alcoholism doesn’t cause rhinophyma, excessive drinking is believed to aggravate the condition. This is due to the aforementioned enlarging of the blood vessels. With the blood vessels open and allowing greater blood flow, patients can appear flushed in the face, neck, and shoulders.

If a heavy drinker already has a form of rosacea, the consumption of alcohol can exacerbate its symptoms.

Alcoholism and Rosacea Management

Heavy drinkers suffering from rosacea can implement some tips to reduce flare-ups. Interestingly, red wine is shown to cause the worst flare-ups, likely due to a chemical found in the alcoholic beverage.

This chemical makes the blood vessels open more than other alcoholic drinks, resulting in abnormally high blood flow. Thus, the surface of the drinker’s skin will appear red and irritated. As such, drinkers with rosacea should avoid red wine if they want to keep flare-ups to a minimum.

Of course, stopping the consumption of all alcoholic beverages would be best. But if alcohol is going to continue to be consumed, doctors recommend drinking a tall glass of water between alcohol beverages.

Moderation can also help with symptoms, as well as diluting alcoholic beverages with seltzer water. Doctors also suggest that heavy drinkers not cook with alcohol if they want to effectively avoid flare-ups.

If you struggle with rosacea, you can:

  • Apply moisturizer regularly
  • Use soap that is designed for sensitive skin
  • Try not to scrub your face. Wash it gently.
  • Apply sunscreen when you are going to be in the sun

Treatment Can Help

If you’re struggling with rhinophyma, there is treatment available. You may want to begin with a visit to your doctor, as they may prescribe medication and lifestyle tips to help you manage the condition.

But maybe you are reading this, and you admit you’re struggling with drinking too much. If you want to quit drinking but have found that you can’t do it on your own, a treatment program may provide the direction and counsel you need to overcome your dependence or addiction. Whether an inpatient or outpatient facility, either program can help reduce your withdrawal symptoms and overcome the addiction.

Don’t let your addiction to alcohol keep you from getting the help you deserve. Contact a local treatment center in your area to find out what you need to do. Many treatment centers accept insurance. If you don’t have insurance, they may be able to get you some financial assistance.

With your treatment program will come a support system of caring people who understand your challenges and will work with you while you strive to become free of addiction.

If you believe that you or someone you know suffers from alcoholism, please contact one of our addiction specialists and call (866) 578-7471.

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11 comments
  1. I never heard about this condition, but I have seen it before and always wondered what type of skin condition this possibly was. Thanks for the education, it’s always good to gain insight.

  2. The images shared of the infected nose gives a lesson why shouldn’t we addict to the alcohol in one shot. The details are very well shared on how to overcome this situation if anyone is addicted.

  3. I love how you wrote this out, I personally have always thought excessive drinking caused my cousins reddish nose. Now I know better but I still preach any addiction to bad and should be strongly looked into.

  4. This site contains education post that helps safeguarding ones health. This is my first time seeing such nose issue. Now I know how to get myself protected. Thanks for this good post.

  5. This article is very educative. I also feel that the cause of alcoholic nose is due to excessive intake of alcohol. Now that I’m enlightened about this I won’t hesitate to share the knowledge with people of different mind set about it.

  6. I have always thought that rosacea is caused by too much alcohol. I’m glad that its not linked to the consumption of alcohol although alcohol can worsen the condition. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy. The fact that rosacea can be managed is good news . thanks for this informative post

  7. This article has done a great job to enlighten on what alcoholic nose is and also it has highlighted the cause and how to manage it. The article is informative and also well detailed.

  8. I have never heard of rhinophyma (alcohol nose ) before now. But it is so unfair for people who dont drink to have this kind of condition. I do hope it does not hurt as much as it looks. For does who are alcoholics they should stay away from alcohol so as to avoid such an ailment.

  9. This is really disgusting to look at, suprising that excessive alcohol can aggravate Rhinophyma in someone. If people know that drinking so much alcohol may result in an alcoholic nose, then I don’t see why such people should continue drinking. As the saying goes health is wealth.

  10. I assume that there are documented cases for this? It is rare though. Is this a new effect? What triggers this? In any case this is another reason why excess alcohol will do more harm than good.

  11. As we all know alcohol is not good for our health,that affects our body in very bad way,I always suggest to those people who are drinking ,to stop drinking and try to live in a better manner,Alcoholism doesn’t cause rhinophyma but it causes several types of diseases which are very dangerous for our health ,it causes cancer also.

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