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The Link Between Rosacea and Alcohol

Booze Not a Cause but Can Trigger Flare-Ups; Red Wine Tops Problem List

From the WebMD Archives


Drinking Can Worsen Symptoms

Rosacea usually begins after age 30 as redness on the cheeks, nose, chin, or forehead that may come and go. Over time, the redness becomes ruddier and more persistent, and visible blood vessels may appear. Left untreated, bumps and pimples often develop, and in severe cases the nose may grow swollen and bumpy from excess tissue, as with Fields.

These self-reported survey results are by no means scientific but are useful because to date, there are no known medical studies that have examined the "hierarchy" of alcoholic beverages to determine which is most likely to cause rosacea-related problems.

Still, these survey results come to no surprise to Wolf, who serves as editor of a rosacea web site for the American Academy of Dermatology. Neither he nor Thiboutot were involved in the survey, but both serve as spokesdoctors for the National Rosacea Society.

"Alcohol dilates blood vessels, and that will make a red face look redder," Wolf tells WebMD. "But red wine also contains chemicals called tyramines - a histamine-like compound that dilates vessels even more, so I can understand why it could be more of a problem that pure alcohol.

"And there are anecdotal observations we hear from patients and colleagues that red wine, in particular, is more likely to trigger to flare-ups or worsen rosacea than other drinks," he says.

Does that mean that rosacea patients shouldn't drink wine -- or anything else?

"My advice to patients with regard to alcohol is the same as with diet -- customize it to your own personal situation," says Wolf. "We know that many foods are implicated as possible trigger factors in rosacea, but not all those foods affect all patients. If you have a problem when you drink, don't drink. If your rosacea doesn't seem to get worse with wine at dinner, there is no reason to deprive yourself of something that is enjoyable and possibly even has health benefits."

And if you feel a flare-up brewing after drinking?

"In general, drinking water after alcohol helps dilute the alcohol, but if you have rosacea, it may be especially useful to have cool water or suck on ice chips after having wine because it can mitigate the flares and flushing," he tells WebMD. "Even if you don't, drinking a lot of water after drinking wine is a good way to prevent a hangover."