Why do alcoholics have purple noses? It is a somewhat complicated answer. W.C. Fields likely would not have had the career he did if it wasn’t for that bright purple nose. The love of alcohol was a big part of his act, and he had the nose to prove it. He probably did more for promoting the connection between a bulbous nose and drunkenness than any medical textbook ever did. Although it can be a sign of alcoholism, unfortunately, for a great many people, a bulbous, purple nose has nothing to do with alcoholism at all, but instead is an unlucky symptom of the skin condition rosacea.
What is rosacea?
Rosacea is a skin disease that afflicts approximately one in 20 Americans. It presents as a reddening of the face or nose, runny eyes, pimple-like bumps and visible blood vessels on the face. It is most common in people of English or Scandinavian descent. Rosacea is not curable, but it can be controlled with a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments. Reducing stress, avoiding sun and heat, refraining from consuming alcohol or alcohol-based products all can help relieve the symptoms of rosacea. It has also been found that a change in diet is helpful in treating the condition. A raw food, or hunter/gatherer, diet has shown some promise in the elimination of rosacea symptoms.
How did rosacea get connected with alcoholism?
While it is true that not all bulbous, purple noses are caused by drinking, alcoholics with rosacea will likely get that tell-tale nose. Non-drinkers are far more likely to take the necessary precautions to avoid flare-ups. One of those precautions is to avoid alcohol, something that alcoholics are unable or unwilling to do. Unfortunately, the more they drink, the worse the conditions becomes—thus, the veins become more visible and the nose more bulging. There is no way to reverse this condition, so once it takes hold, even the cessation of drinking will not make it better.
New treatment for 'drinker’s nose'
It is such a shame that so many sufferers of this condition actually drink less than the general population yet still suffer from this upsetting condition. Fortunately, though, there is a new treatment that can greatly reduce the roundedness and redness of the nose. It is called salt blasting and is normally used to treat snoring and some types of upper-body cancers. The surgeon uses a wandlike device that emits a stream of sterilized salt water along with radio waves. This combination “sandblasts” the affected tissue to effectively take off layers and eliminate redness. The procedure generally takes less than 30 minutes and is done under general anesthesia. Most patients go home the same day. It is literally changing people’s lives.
Drinker’s nose is no laughing matter, and you certainly should not prejudge people with this condition. It is likely a bad case of rosacea Even if it is caused by drinking, we need to remember that alcoholism is not a choice; it is a disease. If you or a loved one are concerned about alcoholism, please visit Alcoholics Anonymous for more information on how to quit drinking.