Rhinophyma is a state of the skin usually indicated by a swollen, red, and bumpy feel on cheeks and nose. Before now, Rhinophyma or drinkers’ nose or alcohol nose used to be seen as a result of drinking too much alcohol, but recent scientific studies suggest otherwise.
In a 2015 report, Rhinophyma was confirmed to have no links with alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. This makes one wonder why alcoholism and Rhinophyma are commonly used in the same sentence even when they have no connection.
What is an Alcoholic Nose?
Contrary to the popular myth, alcoholic nose or Rhinophyma has nothing to do with alcohol. In fact, it is a state of the skin usually depicted by a bumpy, red, and swollen nose. It is a form of an entirely different skin issue known as Rosacea – a condition that leads to severe skin inflammation. If untreated, it degenerates into ruptured blood vessels and bumps around or on the nose. The most obvious physical symptom of this degeneration is a bumpy, swollen, and red nose.
There are four smaller groups of Rosacea; Rhinophyma is one of them and probably the worst. Its development is systemic – it takes several years to fully form, especially when this type of Rosacea is not treated in its early stages. Both men and women are prone to Rhinophyma, although men are at a higher risk. The risk is higher in fair skin people or people whose family member(s) has had a case of Rosacea.
Is Alcoholism a Possible Cause of Rhinophyma?
Rhinophyma was previously attributed to too much alcohol intake – the reason it is called drinkers nose or alcoholic nose. This attribution stems from the fact that abusing alcohol can lead to neck and face vessels enlargement, resulting in flushed or red skin.
This idea stood for several years until a 2015 study by the Morsani College of Medicine in the University of South Florida disproved it. Most of the participating patients in the study are not drinkers or alcohol abusers, yet they were found to be living with Rhinophyma.
Despite refuting the claim of alcohol abuse and drinkers nose having a connection, the researchers could not identify the cause of Rhinophyma in the patients they examined. The available evidence points to strong links between this unusual condition and genetic or ethnic susceptibility, especially among patients of Eastern European, Scandinavian, Scottish, or English descent.
In all, there is no apparent cause of this skin disease identified till today.
How Does Alcohol Affect Rosacea?
While the misuse of alcohol does not directly result in Rosacea or Rhinophyma, it can worsen the situation. Two patients out of every three living with the condition suffer degenerations on consuming alcohol.
Alcohol causes rosacea aggravation because when alcohol finds its way into the blood vessels, it enlarges them. The enlarged blood vessels facilitate more blood move to the skin surface, resulting in alcohol flush. The flushed appearance can affect any part of the skin, but it is more common on the chest, shoulders, and face. Individuals who are already dealing with Rosacea will experience aggravated symptoms if they consume alcohol.
A recent examination of patients living with Rosacea showed a higher chance of red wine triggering flare-ups compared to other alcoholic drinks. This has been attributed to red wine chemicals, which contribute to blood vessel enlargement and the flow of more blood to the skin surface.
So, when Rosacea’s symptoms surfaces, the best way to alleviate them is to stop drinking red wine or drink very moderately. Patients should also drink sufficient water in-between every alcoholic drink, drink alcohol but with a sufficient amount of seltzer water, or stop alcohol consumption altogether. Considering that people have varying degrees of alcohol sensitivity, patients need to assess and create individual boundaries to prevent the aggravation of the situation.
Alcoholic Nose and Alcohol Addiction
Despite the scientific evidence confirming no link between drinking and alcoholic nose, people still tend to associate both. This is why most people suffering from Rhinophyma are careful with alcohol. They want to prevent aggravation and being seen as an alcoholic. The false conviction that rosacea patients are alcoholics is a bigger problem among alcohol addicts, with most people being stigmatized due to this disease.
Rhinophyma patients resort to extreme measures so that they are not tagged an alcoholic. For instance, they withdraw from social activities – a move that fuels the stigma that comes with the alcoholic addiction. The stigma leads to rejection, avoidance, and demeaning treatment of individuals dealing with addiction since people do not want to understand the feelings of such people. Regrettably, alcoholics coping with addiction are too embarrassed to seek professional help.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism puts the number of Americans dealing with one form of alcohol use disorder or the other at 15 million. Only about 8% of these people gets professional help. The only way to encourage such people to seek professional help is to break the stigma associated with addiction.
Breaking the Stigma
The stigma associated with addiction can be broken by telling the public more about Rhinophyma and the associated addiction. People should also learn about the misconceptions related to addiction. Everyone should be able to identify the fact-based warning signs of alcohol abuse and give people a safe space where people can report mistreatment due to their addiction. Lastly, people struggling with addiction must get compassionate support without being labeled as a drunk or addict.
Rhinophyma is not the same as alcoholism. It is important to strike out this archaic stereotype, so that it doesn’t worsen the current disturbing social anxiety and lack of confidence patients face. It will also remove the resulting adverse effects of addiction and ensure that people dealing with alcoholism can get the right help.