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September 6, 2022

What Is Alcoholic Nose?

Drinker’s Nose or alcoholic’s nose was long thought to be associated with heavy drinking. 

However, the latest research suggests that this condition, formally known as rhinophyma, is actually a subtype of the skin condition rosacea. Although drinking can aggravate symptoms, the condition isn’t actually caused by alcohol. Here, we’ll explore precisely what this condition is and how it can be successfully treated. 

What Is Rhinophyma?

Rhinophyma is characterized by a bulbous red and bumpy nose. This skin disorder is caused by severe rosacea, which is a chronic skin disorder that causes skin inflammation resulting in redness and, sometimes, bumps. Researchers believe that rhinophyma most often occurs as the result of untreated rosacea. 

Although the condition was referred to as drinker’s nose for centuries, it actually occurs just as often in non-drinkers. Unfortunately, rhinophyma can cause permanent nose disfigurement if it remains untreated. In some cases, the bulbous growths can even lead to nasal obstruction.

Can Alcoholism Cause Rhinophyma?

As previously mentioned, it was thought that excessive alcohol consumption caused rhinophyma hence the nickname.  Alcoholism can enlarge the vessels in an individual’s ace and neck which creates a flushed redness to the skin. 

Medical researchers don’t know precisely what causes rhinophyma. As mentioned, they do know that there are some factors that carry a more significant risk for this condition to develop. Risk factors include:

  • Complexion (fair-skinned people are more likely to develop rhinophyma)
  • Genetics 
  • Gender (men tend to get this condition more than women)
  • Ethnicity (rhinophyma mostly affects people of Scottish, Irish, English, Scandinavia, and Eastern European people)
  • Age (the condition often occurs in people aged between 50 and 70)

What Are the Symptoms of Rhinophyma?

Often, the symptoms of rhinophyma occur in episodes, but they also tend to worsen if they are not treated. Common symptoms of rhinophyma include:

  • Reddening and swollen nose
  • The nose begins to take on a bulbous shape
  • Skin pores enlarge
  • Oil glands in the skin may appear visible
  • The skin of the nose thickens and may feel irritated
  • The skin can take on a waxy and rough appearance


If you experience these symptoms even if you have not been diagnosed with rosacea in the past, you should consult with a healthcare provider. Since the disorder was thought to be associated with alcoholism prior to 2015, many of today’s leading alcohol treatment centers are also well aware of the condition and can recommend treatment. You can also visit your family practitioner or dermatologist for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

How Alcohol Affects Rosacea

Although alcohol does not cause rhinophyma, it may aggravate the condition if you have it. The fact is, two out of every three people with rhinophyma experience a flare up of their rosacea after drinking. 

This isn’t surprising as alcohol can cause blood vessels to enlarge, allowing greater volume of blood flow to reach the skin’s surface. In fact, this is why many people who drink experience a flushed face. A person who has rosacea is likely to experience some pronounced redness along with other symptom onset.

For those who have rosacea it’s important to practice things such as: 

  • Avoid red wine 
  • Don’t cook with alcohol  
  • Don’t binge drinking 
  • Drink water before and after an alcoholic drink
  • Try to dilute alcohol drinks
  • Stop drinking alcohol

How Is Rhinophyma Treated?

Today, medical providers have multiple options for treating this rare skin condition. In some cases, your doctor may order laser skin resurfacing to reshape the nose. They may also perform a procedure known as dermabrasion to remove the skin’s top-most layers. On the other hand, surgery may be required to reshape a severely misshapen nose, to remove an overgrowth of tissue concentrated on the nose, to improve the individual’s respiratory function, or to decrease the size of overgrown blood vessels. 

Patients can typically expect to be prescribed some topical and oral medications to alleviate symptoms as well. These may include:

  • Clonidine
  • Oxymetazoline
  • Ivermectin
  • Brimonidine
  • Propranolol


Aspirin may also be recommended to help alleviate the discomfort patients experience during eruptive bouts of the disorder.

In severe cases of rhinophyma, the condition may not respond well to early interventions. In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgical cautery for shaving the bulk of the affected nose tissue. Skin grafting may be recommended. In cases where the function of the nose is compromised, a septorhinoplasty may also be needed. In most cases, surgeons prefer to take less tissue and then gauge the results before taking too much. 

Stigma Surrounding Addiction and Rhinophyma

Although rhinophyma is rare, it continues to be referred to in many parts of the world as drinker’s nose. This can lead to an unpleasant stigma, particularly for sufferers who don’t actually drink or have stopped drinking. 

Luckily, treatment can greatly improve the appearance of the sufferer’s nose and many medications can help control symptom flare ups. If you are concerned that your drinking is causing you to experience rosacea flare ups, you can get help to quit. 

Restore Detox Centers specializes in addiction treatment. Through both medically sanctioned and evidence based treatments, you can transform your life and health by ending your dependence on alcohol.


About Restore

Are you or someone you care about struggling with drug or alcohol addiction in San Diego, California? Look no further than Restore Detox Centers, the leading 24-hour residential treatment facility. Our dedicated team is committed to providing effective rehabilitation services tailored to your individual needs.

We understand the challenges you face on your path to recovery, which is why we offer a comprehensive range of programs, including medically assisted detox and residential treatment. Our ultimate goal is to guide you towards a life free from addiction and help you achieve long-term success. 

Rest assured that our facility is accredited by The Joint Commission, guaranteeing the highest standards of quality and safety. You can rely on our compassionate team of professionals to support you every step of the way. 

If you're ready to take the first step towards healing, don't hesitate to contact Restore Detox Centers today. Let us be your trusted partner in your journey to recovery.

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