Addiction | 6 min read

An Alcoholic’s Nose: What Is It & How Does It Happen?

Medically Reviewed

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

On September 27, 2022

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On September 27, 2022

Alcoholic’s Nose: What Is It
Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you’ve ever heard of an ‘Alcoholic’s nose,’ this article is for you.

An Alcoholic’s nose or Rhinophyma is a condition where your nose, and occasionally other facial features, become swollen and permanently enlarged. At the same time, your nose will likely become redder and may become bumpy and take on a completely different shape.

Most people who deal with the condition are distressed by it, not least because, in addition to the cosmetic changes, an Alcoholic’s nose can cause other medical problems and may make breathing through your nose more difficult.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about an Alcoholic’s nose, though (including the name!), so it’s worth talking about the condition, what causes it, the side effects you can get, and, yes, whether and how an Alcoholic’s nose is connected to alcohol use and alcohol use disorder. (It’s not what you expect).

Let’s dive in.

What Is Alcoholics Nose & What Causes It?

Rhinophyma is commonly called an Alcoholic’s nose because it was thought the condition was brought on by alcohol use for a long time. People who drank heavily were thought to be more likely to develop this condition, and it was thought that the underlying cause of the condition was also directly related to drinking.

That isn’t true. Rhinophyma occurs equally often in drinkers and non-drinkers.[1]

That said, an Alcoholic’s nose still suffers from the reputation of being connected to drinking, and many people still think it’s a sign of past or present heavy drinking behavior. There are some connections between drinking and the condition, but only in that, the negative health consequences of drinking may make people more likely to develop the conditions they are already at risk for.

The real cause of an Alcoholic’s nose is a combination of a couple of different skin conditions happening simultaneously, one of which may cause the other. It’s generally thought that the main cause of Rhinophyma is untreated and worsening Rosacea.

Rosacea is an inflammatory disorder of the skin that can make your skin look red or swollen. As the condition advances, it can cause damage, and the inflammation will likely worsen over time without treatment.[2]

What Is Alcoholics Nose & What Causes It?

People with Rosacea tend to develop symptoms between 30-50, and the exact cause of the condition isn’t clear. Dermatologists often treat it, but you can also need to work with other specialists depending on whether the condition develops any secondary conditions and how severe it becomes.

Rhinophyma is more common in men than women, though people of all genders can get the condition. It’s not entirely clear why Rosacea sometimes develops into and causes Rhinophyma, but Rhinophyma of the nose typically requires treatment from several specialists, including an ear, nose, and throat doctor who can help address breathing and airway concerns.

There are many complicated factors when dealing with an Alcoholic’s nose, and alcohol can be part of the picture, even though it’s not really the cause of the condition. There are also a lot of complications that come with having Rhinophyma at the same time.

Side Effects & Dangers Of An Alcoholic’s Nose

There are a lot of potential side effects that can come from an Alcoholic’s nose, and it’s important to understand the side effects of the condition if you or a loved one are dealing with it.

Rhinophyma results from an increase in the sebaceous glands in the skin of the nose and surrounding tissue. The increase in sebaceous glands also comes with an increase in the connective tissue that supports them, which is part of what causes the enlargement and swelling in the nose.

However, as you might suspect, any inflammation in or around your nose can be a serious problem since your nose is your primary breathing organ when everything is working properly.

The condition occurs much more frequently in men and usually starts to develop between the ages of 50-70.[3]

Side Effects And Symptoms:

  • Thickened skin on and around the nose
  • Growth or expansion in the tip of the nose
  • Reddened or swollen skin on and around the nose
  • Bumpy skin texture on and around the nose
  • Enlarged pores
  • Oily skin (may affect more than just the area around the nose)

Those symptoms alone may not seem that significant, aside from the cosmetic changes caused by the condition. However, several additional dangers are a direct response to these conditions.

Risks Of Alcoholic’s Nose

  • Chronic infection
  • Obstructed airways
  • Spreading of inflammation
  • Increased oily skin, increasing infection risk
  • Increased risk of basal cell carcinoma.

These risks can all cause serious medical complications, which need immediate treatment, and may different specialties might be needed depending on the specific symptoms and risks of each patient.

The worse your Alcoholic’s nose becomes, the more likely you are to develop additional symptoms and complications, and the more severe those complications may become as they develop.

How An Alcoholic’s Nose May Be Pointing To An Addiction: How To Tell If You’re Addicted To Alcohol

So, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the physical condition that causes an Alcoholic’s nose, but where does alcohol come into it?

Well, alcoholic addiction can make this condition worse and can increase your risks of certain complications while you have an Alcoholic’s nose.

For instance, Rhinophyma can increase your risk of certain skin cancers. Alcohol use can also increase your risk of cancer, and that increased risk compounds on itself so that you’re more likely to deal with more complications and more severe forms of the complication you’re dealing with.

Since an Alcoholic’s nose is also a result of an inflammatory process causing problems, and alcohol use can increase the inflammation in your body, using alcohol when you have an Alcoholic’s nose may increase the rate of inflammation or increase the level of damage associated with the inflammation.

Additionally, alcohol use, especially chronic alcohol use, can lower your immune system’s effectiveness and make it harder for your body to respond appropriately to the complications and threats of having an Alcoholic’s nose.

All of this means that drinking is likely to worsen your symptoms and may mean that the condition progresses more quickly or may make the treatments less effective than they otherwise would be.

So, if you’re continuing to drink, especially if your doctors have warned you that drinking may complicate the condition and make it harder to treat, that may be a sign that you’re relying on the alcohol for relief from something. Relying on alcohol can be a serious sign of addiction and that there are more underlying problems that may further complicate your condition.

Here are some other signs and symptoms that can tell you you’re dealing with addiction:

  • You feel like you need to drink to be yourself
  • You feel like you can’t relax without drinking
  • You drink to ‘take the edge off’ but need more than one drink to take the edge off
  • You feel like you need to hide how much you drink
  • You worry about when you’ll be able to drink or when you’ll be able to get more to drink.

How An Alcoholic’s Nose May Be Pointing To An Addiction

If any of those statements felt familiar, you might be dealing with an addiction.

How To Get Help If Struggling With An Addiction Or Repeated Cases Of An Alcoholic’s Nose

There are many ways to get help if you’re dealing with an addiction, like alcoholism. Getting treatment might be even more important if you’re dealing with an Alcoholic’s nose or if you’ve gotten treatment for the condition in the past and had the condition come back.

Addiction is complicated, and dealing with addiction and other conditions can be even more complicated. That means it’s even more important than usual to make sure you’re getting treatment and have extra help and support while dealing with the addiction.

One of the best resources you have is your doctor. If you’re concerned about your use of alcohol, they might be able to offer a lot more resources in your area than you can find on your own.

If you struggle to stop drinking, have withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop drinking, or want more help and support while you’re withdrawing, you may want to consider going to a treatment center for more intensive help.

Treatment centers are equipped to deal with a range of issues. That’s important because they can help manage any medications you might be taking to deal with your condition, and they can help support any other underlying addictions you might be dealing with.

Another important benefit is that treatment centers can offer more medical support for people in the age bracket normally affected by this condition. Your age shouldn’t be a barrier to treatment or living a long, happy, healthy life.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, reach out to our Brooklyn Rehab Center. Ascendant New York is here to help, offering drug rehab treatment to all five boroughs within New York City.

Contact us if you want to learn more about our programs, how we can offer support for the full range of issues you’re dealing with, our intake process, and more.

You don’t have to face this alone. You can do this, and you deserve to get the support you need.

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Here at Ascendant New York, we understand the importance of having access to accurate medical information you can trust, especially when you or a loved one is suffering from addiction. Find out more on our policy.

Amanda Stevens


Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. Read more

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  1. UT Southwestern Medical Center. Rhinophyma | Condition | UT Southwestern Medical Center. Accessed September 18, 2022.,on%20the%20nose%20and%20cheeks.
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. What is Rosacea? Accessed September 18, 2022.
  3. Johnson J. Rhinophyma (nose): Causes, pictures, and treatment. Published December 15, 2021. Accessed September 18, 2022.