Rosacea and Alcohol

Nobody is quite sure how the myth started, but for the longest time it was believed that rosacea was a sign of alcoholism. Medical schools trained their patients to look for facial redness, tiny visible blood vessels and rhinophyma (third phase rosacea) as hallmarks of the disease, and when those characteristics were present they would then proceed to look for other signs of alcohol abuse.

It has only been in the past few years that studies have shown this to be incorrect; though there is still no single cause or cure that has been identified, it has been definitively proven that the majority of people who get rosacea are not alcoholics, and many of them do not drink at all. Unfortunately, the image of W.C. Fields and his red face and disfigured nose have made it hard to shake the automatic connection that people make – when they see a flushed red face with telangiectasia on the cheeks, the bloodshot eyes that characterize ocular rosacea, or rhinophyma on the nose, many automatically jump to the conclusion that there is alcohol abuse going on, and that only adds to the stress that rosacea patients often suffer. Whether meeting people socially, applying for a job, or asking a potential love interest out on a first date, society’s misapprehension about rosacea and alcoholism can have a devastating effect.

Ironically, many people who have been diagnosed with rosacea have cut alcohol out of their lives entirely in an effort to prevent a flare; this is because there is an indisputable connection between drinking alcohol and rosacea flare-ups. Three out of every four rosacea patients who drink alcohol have reported that taking even a single drink is highly likely to cause a rosacea flare, with red wine most frequently named as the beverage that most frequently causes one. White wine comes in a close second, but don’t think that there’s something special about fermented grapes; beer, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, all have been named as catalysts to flushing, breakouts and other symptoms, though none to as great a degree as red wine. Just as sensitivities can vary based on which beverage is being consumed, the amount of alcohol that can be consumed before causing a flare differs from person to person; some people can’t even take a sip of an alcoholic beverage without seeing an almost immediate response, while others can have as many as two glasses of wine before symptoms tend to appear, sometimes not until a day later. There are many theories as to why alcohol affects rosacea sufferers in this way, but to date there has been no hard evidence.

Because drinking alcohol is such a norm at social gatherings, all too often when a person with rosacea refuses a drink at a party or limits themselves, people take it as another indication of a drinking problem, albeit one that the person is trying to address. The misplaced stigma of alcoholism only adds to the stress that a rosacea patient is already feeling, and that stress can even contribute to the flare that the patient was trying to avoid by skipping the alcohol in the first place. This may well be a factor in the high number of social events that rosacea patients report skipping entirely, as well as the general lack of self-esteem.

Rosacea Red and White wine

Some people who have rosacea have no problem with cutting out alcohol, while others find themselves unwilling to give it up entirely. For those who would still like to enjoy a drink with dinner or at a social gathering, it is advised that you try to avoid both red and white wine entirely, and be extremely aware of how much you’re drinking. Many rosacea patients have reported that if they make sure that they are well hydrated, having plenty of water before they drink alcohol and at least a full glass of water between drinks, it can be helpful.