What Is An Alcoholic Nose Or Drinker’s Nose (Rhinophyma)?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 31, 2023

Alcoholic nose, known by its clinical name, rhinophyma, is a condition that causes the nose to become bumpy, swollen, and red in appearance. Also referred to as “drinker’s nose,” this condition may be the result of rosacea as well as alcohol abuse.

What Is An Alcoholic Nose Or Drinker's Nose?

Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to or aggravate the symptoms of a range of health problems. This includes effects on a condition commonly known as “alcoholic nose.”

What Is An Alcoholic Nose?

Alcoholic nose is also referred to as drinker’s nose. It typically manifests as a noticeably red, bumpy, or bulbous nose or swollen cheeks.

This is a skin disorder called rhinophyma, which is a side effect of another type of skin condition called rosacea.

The Effect Of Alcohol Addiction On People With Rosacea

Rosacea is generally associated with inflammation of the facial skin. This includes broken blood vessels, which causes facial skin to appear bumpy and red. It is most likely to show up in older adults.

While alcoholism may not be responsible for causing rhinophyma or rosacea, it is still associated with chronic skin inflammation issues because it can aggravate flare-ups.

Signs And Symptoms Of Alcoholic Nose

Below are some of the most common physical indications that you or a loved one may have alcoholic nose.

Rhinophyma is characterized by a few telltale signs and symptoms, including:

  • a red nose
  • a red face
  • broken, visible blood vessels on the nose
  • bulbous nose shape
  • facial or nose skin that is waxy or rough
  • red patches on the skin
  • red tip of the nose
  • large bumps or pimples/pustules on the nose
  • enlarged pores on the nose or cheeks

In the early stages of drinker’s nose, these symptoms will be mild to moderate in form. People who have rosacea may not develop rhinophyma until years later in life.

How Rosacea And Alcohol Abuse Lead To Drinker’s Nose

Alcohol use disorder and skin conditions like rosacea are connected because of the potential for alcohol to worsen existing skin conditions.

Drinking alcohol enlarges the blood vessels, which makes them more susceptible to bursting.

Because of this, people who drink a lot or increase their alcohol intake over time and also have rosacea may experience increased side effects — including alcoholic nose.


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Until recently, doctors believed that rosacea and rhinophyma could be caused by alcoholism.

However, a scientific study that came out in 2015 at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine dismantled the theory that alcohol abuse and alcoholic nose are connected.

Alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse do not directly cause rhinophyma. Yet chronic alcohol abuse can worsen the condition (rosacea), which leads to drinker’s nose when left untreated.

Side Effects Of Alcohol Abuse In People With Rhinophyma

The most common side effect of rosacea in people who drink is flushed skin. With time, rosacea can worsen, and for people who drink alcohol heavily, this can mean developing rhinophyma.

Widened blood vessels caused by heavy drinking allow more blood to travel to right beneath the skin’s surface, which gives the face a more flushed or red appearance.

The shoulders and chest are also susceptible to looking more flushed or red after drinking alcohol.

When left untreated, alcoholic eyes, or ocular rosacea may occur. This typically results in the eyes becoming swollen and red in appearance.

Each individual is sensitive to alcohol in different ways, so everyone who has rosacea may not see a flare-up after drinking.

The Cause Of Alcoholic Nose

Unfortunately, doctors are not yet clear on the direct cause of rhinophyma. It shows up more frequently in men than women and is common among those with fair skin and European ancestry.

Current research indicates that people with rhinophyma often have a genetic predisposition to or family history of rosacea, especially if treatments for their rosacea prove ineffective.

Many doctors advise patients with rosacea to avoid drinking and cooking with alcohol, especially red wine for women, to avoid aggravating the skin condition.

Additives in red wine may cause even more noticeable reddening of the skin.

Why Alcohol Abuse Gets The Blame For Rhinophyma

For those wondering what is an alcoholic nose, it makes sense that many people still associate this skin condition with heavy alcohol consumption.

This common name and years of misinformation from the medical community about the condition prompted a false link between alcohol abuse and alcoholic nose.

The association between alcohol abuse and rosacea can be traumatizing for some people with rosacea. They may not want to be seen in public during a flare-up.

They may fear that others will associate their swollen, bumpy nose or red cheeks with alcoholism.

The social stigma related to alcohol abuse and alcoholic nose highlights the social pressures and barriers that still exist for those with substance abuse issues.

Treatment For Rosacea

Rosacea can be treated in its early stages with antibiotics, including topical creams.

Dermatology experts recommend anti-acne treatments, moisturizing your dry skin caused by rosacea, and using sunscreen lotions.

Medical advice for rosacea treatment includes risk factors people can avoid to lessen their instance of flare-ups, which may include some lifestyle changes.

This could mean cutting out or avoiding the following:

  • spicy foods
  • sunlight
  • being in the wind
  • high emotions
  • certain exercises
  • certain prescription drugs, such as blood pressure medications
  • makeup and other cosmetic products

However, these treatment methods have not been effective for reducing swelling or the appearance of bumps on the nose from rhinophyma.

Surgery, including laser treatment or dermabrasion, may be necessary to remove large bumps on the nose from rhinophyma if they interfere with breathing.

Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder

People who may benefit from alcohol treatment programs may be deterred from taking initial steps in seeking treatment. They may be afraid they will feel shamed by other people’s judgments of alcohol abuse.

For some individuals with alcohol addiction, it can be more effective to enroll in a treatment program outside of their local community. This way, they are not bombarded with social pressures and stigma close to home.

This helps eliminate some triggers and improves their odds of sticking with an alcohol rehab program.
Treatment plans for alcoholism may include detox, inpatient drug treatment programs, 12-step programs, aftercare, relapse prevention planning, and more.

Find An Addiction Recovery Center Today.

If you or a loved one are looking for substance abuse treatment, help is available. Contact our team at AddictionResource.net today for more information.

Call us now to get help finding the ideal alcohol recovery program.

Alcoholic Nose FAQs

If you’re looking for information about the condition known as alcoholic nose or drinker’s nose, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

“Rhinophyma” is the medical term for “drinker’s nose”, which is a side effect of the skin condition rosacea. Contrary to popular belief, a “drinker’s nose” is not necessarily caused by alcohol addiction or abuse.

When left untreated, the skin condition rosacea can cause the nose to grow or become bulbous in appearance.

Rosacea is not caused by alcoholism, but alcohol abuse can affect rosacea, which may worsen the appearance of a drinker’s nose.

Alcohol addiction can lead to a number of side effects, which may include affecting rosacea. With time, alcohol abuse can worsen rosacea and contribute to the development of rhinophyma (alcoholic nose).

Having a big nose, even as a result of rosacea, is not necessarily a sign of alcoholism.

However, alcohol addiction can cause a person to neglect their health, which can mean side effects on any pre-existing health conditions, including rosacea.

Rhinophyma is the skin condition which causes a person’s nose to grow and become bulbous in appearance. A bulbous nose can be a side effect of the health condition rosacea.

Alcoholism may affect appearance in a number of ways. Alcohol addiction can lead to neglect of nutrition and hygiene and may lead to weight loss.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 31, 2023


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