Trusted Content
DR. ANNA PICKERING

Medically reviewed by

01/25/2020

What is Alcoholic Nose or Rhinophyma?

There are several symptoms that can come as a result of alcohol abuse and addiction, with one of them being alcoholic nose, or rhinophyma. This skin condition can be a red flag that someone is abusing alcohol and can also cause the person great self-consciousness due to how it manifests on the face. In this article, we explore what alcoholic nose is, what causes it, and how this condition is commonly treated. We also discuss treatment options for alcohol abuse and addiction for those who are struggling with an alcohol use disorder.

What is Alcoholic Nose?

Alcoholic nose goes by many names: drinkers nose, brandy nose, alcoholic nose, and bulbous nose, to name just a few. The medical name for this condition is rhinophyma and is used to describe a skin condition in which the nose becomes red or purple and bumpy in appearance. 

Rhinophyma is in the same family of another skin condition known as rosacea. Rosacea results in chronically inflamed skin that can cause pustules or broken blood vessels commonly seen on a person with alcoholic nose. Other symptoms of rosacea may include:

  • Red patches or flushing on the facial skin
  • Swollen or misshapen features such as those seen on an alcoholic nose
  • Visible blood vessels
  • Burning in the eyes, a condition known as ocular rosacea
  • Skin that feels hot or “flaming”

Rhinophyma is one of the more severe subtypes of rosacea and typically takes several years to form. Failing to treat earlier rosacea outbreaks can contribute to the development of alcoholic nose. 

Symptoms of rhinophyma include:

  • Purple or red discoloration on the nose
  • Bulbous or misshapen nose
  • Enlarged pores
  • Skin pitting
  • Skin scarring
  • Skin that has thickened and appears rough or waxy
  • Excessively oily or dry skin
  • Inflamed bumps on the nose
  • Noticeable blood vessels around the nose and on the nose
  • Redness on the tip of the nose

Men are much more susceptible to this condition than women as well as people with lighter skin and those who have a family history of this condition. 

What Causes Alcoholic Nose?

Rhinophyma got its nickname of alcoholic nose due to the long-time belief that this condition came as the result of chronic alcohol abuse. However, more recent findings in the medical world are inconclusive as to the actual cause of this skin condition. Several factors have been found to contribute to the development of rhinophyma, including a genetic predisposition to rosacea and ethnicity. 

However, it’s important to note that excessive alcohol consumption can certainly worsen rosacea in general and rhinophyma in those individuals who have this condition. Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it enlarges the blood vessels and causes the skin to flush. This increased blood flow to the facial skin can cause this condition to flare up and worsen over time. 

Other factors that can contribute to a rhinophyma flare-up include intense exercise, some medications, excess stress, spicy foods, and extreme temperatures.

How is Alcoholic Nose Treated?

The best way to treat rhinophyma is to prevent it from developing in the first place through proper diagnosis and treatment of early-onset rosacea. This often involves lifestyle changes and medication to manage this condition.

If rhinophyma has already developed, medication may be prescribed to lower inflammation and treat the condition. Common medicines used include oral or topical antibiotics and tretinoin, a topical cream. Additionally, patients will be recommended to avoid any triggers that cause their condition to flare up. Common triggers include wind, stress, sun exposure, extremely hot showers or baths, and alcohol consumption. Some food can trigger rosacea as well, such as certain spices, dairy, and caffeine. 

If these measures do not help, surgery may be recommended.

Getting Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

If you are suffering from rhinophyma and believe that excessive alcohol consumption may be the cause, seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder is the best way to not only treat this condition but to reclaim your life back from addiction. There are several treatment options available for individuals struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction, including inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. If you would like to learn more about addiction treatment options in your area or get answers to any alcohol addiction-related questions, reach out to one of our dedicated treatment specialists today.

Article Sources

Rosacea Severity Of Rhinophyma Linked To Alcohol Intake - https://www.rosacea.org/blog/2019/september/severity-rosacea-rhinophyma-linked-alcohol-intake-291846
Journal of American Academy Dermatology Rhinophyma is associated with alcohol intake - https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(19)30009-X/fulltext
MedLine Plus Rhinophyma - https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001037.htm
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health Rhinophyma and Alcoholism - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4426765/