A stereotype exists about how a red nose is a sign that someone is addicted to alcohol. Redness of the nose can be a sign of a skin condition that may or may not be aggravated by alcohol abuse. If a person develops what is sometimes called an alcoholic nose, can anything be done to cure this physical symptom? We break down the stereotypes of this possible sign of alcoholism and how to address it, along with any accompanying addiction.
What Is Alcoholic Nose?
Sometimes a person develops a skin condition on their nose that ties into a stereotype. Their nose takes on a red or swollen appearance, often seeming bumpy looking, too. Unfortunately, sometimes people leap to the conclusion that the person has an “alcoholic nose”. This assumption goes back as far as films from decades ago in which stereotypes were common. A character who was an alcoholic was often shown to have a red, splotchy nose. Whether these characters were portrayed as cheerful and harmless or dangerous and mean-spirited, the choice to focus on their nose became popular.
To this day, the idea that someone whose nose fits that particular image must be an alcoholic prevails. However, little evidence exists that abusing alcohol results in a skin condition specific to the nasal area. What some people call an alcoholic nose is instead a skin condition known as “rhinophyma”. This is a form of rosacea and happens more commonly to men than women.
When blood vessels or sores occur on or around the nose, rhinophyma can develop. This condition causes chronic inflammation, making the nose look swollen, bumpy, and red. In advanced cases, the coloration may appear purple. Sadly, due to the incorrect assumption that this skin disease means the person has an alcohol use disorder, some people avoid seeking treatment for it. Even if a person with rhinophyma also has an addiction to alcohol, the skin disease can be treated separately from alcoholism.
What Is Rosacea?
Approximately 14 million people have rosacea. It happens most commonly to those between the ages of 30 to 50 and those who have fair skin. It also can be common in families where more than one family member has the disease or severe acne.
People who have rosacea can point to different reasons the skin condition may be triggered. Alcohol can cause a flare-up, but so can hot drinks and spicy foods. For some people, stress can cause rosacea to surface. Additionally, the weather can cause rosacea to occur or increase its symptoms. This includes exposure to the sun, wind, and excessively hot or cold temperatures. Other causes for what is perceived as an “alcoholic nose” include make-up and skin care products and certain drugs that dilate a person’s blood vessels.
When the symptoms flare up, they may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Afterward, they subside for a period of time. While no cure exists, the condition can be managed with treatment for the symptoms.
Treatment for “Alcoholic Nose”
Someone concerned about having what appears to be an alcoholic nose should seek a diagnosis from a physician. A dermatologist can examine the area and provide an accurate assessment. Even if alcohol use contributes to an increase in rosacea symptoms, the doctor can discuss options for treating the skin condition itself.
Options for treating rhinophyma include the use of medication. Antibiotics can be used to help reduce redness and inflammation. This includes medication taken orally or applied as a topical agent. If the skin condition is more advanced, surgery may be necessary. For many, this is more effective than relying solely on medications. Surgery may be in the form of using lasers, dermabrasion, or a scalpel.
Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
Someone who expresses concern that a skin condition on their nose may be a sign of alcoholism may need help with their drinking. Even if the discoloration or change in the shape of their nose is attributable to rhinophyma, any co-occurring addiction to alcohol should be addressed as long-term effects of alcohol abuse can be dire. Common signs of having an alcohol use disorder include the following:
- Alcohol use interferes with a job, school work, or family responsibilities
- A history of trying to cut back or stop drinking but being unable to do it
- Developing a tolerance for alcohol and having to increase the amount the person drinks
- When unable to drink, withdrawal symptoms develop
- Frequent hangovers
- Drinking alone
- Forgoing hobbies and social events in order to drink
- Participating in dangerous activities when under the influence, such as driving drunk, having unprotected sex, or engaging in risky behavior
- Drinking to cover up feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, or past trauma
Someone who experiences two or more of these symptoms may need alcohol addiction treatment.
Seek Help For Alcohol Addiction
It can be easy to ignore the signs of alcohol addiction. When a potential symptom like having an alcoholic nose occurs, it can help a person understand they may have a problem. Buckhead Behavioral Health offers a comprehensive program designed to help people overcome alcoholism. Our range of outpatient plans covers a variety of needs. We help people ready to begin detox in Atlanta and then cover them through several stages of follow-up care.
Would you like more information about our program? Visit our admissions page and let us tell you how easy it is to get started.