Red Face From Drinking Alcohol: Causes, Signs & Symptoms

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Alcohol can affect people in a variety of ways. Some people become less inhibited and more outgoing. Others quickly become withdrawn, morose, and depressed. But mood changes aren’t the only effects of alcohol use. For example, many people develop a red face from drinking alcohol. Though this may appear to be nothing less than a superficial reaction, red face from drinking alcohol can be a sign of a serious problem.

How Does The Face Turn Red From Drinking Alcohol?

Red face from drinking alcohol can occur for the following reasons:

  • Damaged blood vessels that are the result of chronic alcohol abuse
  • A skin condition known as rosacea
  • The interaction of alcohol with certain prescription medications
  • A genetic enzyme deficiency that affects the body’s ability to process alcohol

When people develop red face from drinking alcohol due to the genetic enzyme deficiency, clinicians refer to this experience as alcohol flush reaction. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Red Face

The most obvious symptom of red face from drinking alcohol is a reddening of the skin in the vicinity of the cheeks and nose. But people who have the genetic condition that causes alcohol flush reaction may also experience symptoms such as the following:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Severe headache
  • Asthma-related breathing problems
  • Hives
  • Nausea

As described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), for people who don’t have the genetic condition that causes red face from drinking alcohol, the process of metabolizing alcohol typically occurs like this:

  • An enzyme in the body converts the alcohol to a substance called acetaldehyde.
  • Another enzyme turns the acetaldehyde into a byproduct known as acetate.
  • Acetate is broken down into water and carbon dioxide.
  • The water and carbon dioxide are eliminated from the body.

The genetic condition that is linked to red face from alcohol prevents the body from metabolizing alcohol past the point where it is changed into acetaldehyde. This is extremely problematic, because acetaldehyde is a toxic substance. 

In addition to causing facial reddening and the other symptoms of alcohol flush reaction that are listed above, acetaldehyde can also increase a person’s risk for developing esophageal cancer and breast cancer. 

Who Typically Gets Red Face From Drinking Alcohol?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, people from two ethnic backgrounds have an increased risk of developing red face from drinking alcohol:

  • Rosacea is more common among people with fair skin who can trace their heritage to Northern Europe.
  • The genetic enzyme deficiency that leads to alcohol flush reaction is more common among people of Asian descent.

Also, as we mentioned earlier on this page, people who have been abusing alcohol for an extended period of time may develop red face due to blood vessel damage.

The best way to avoid getting a red face from drinking alcohol is to stop drinking. Unfortunately, for people who have developed alcohol use disorder (alcoholism), this can be extremely difficult to do.

Alcohol use disorder can cause a person to lose the ability to control how much or how frequently they drink. It can also prevent a person from ending their alcohol use even after they have experienced negative effects as a direct result of prior use (which can be particularly relevant for people who get a red face from drinking alcohol). 

Thankfully, alcoholism is a treatable disorder. When a person receives proper care from a reputable provider, they can stop drinking and make the lifestyle changes that will help them achieve long-term recovery.

How to Treat Alcoholism

Comprehensive care for alcoholism can include several elements. Determining the optimal components of an individual’s customized alcohol treatment plan can be influenced by myriad factors, including the individual’s age, how long they have been addicted to alcohol, how much (and how often) they usually drink, and if they have a co-occurring mental health disorder.

Many people who receive treatment for alcoholism participate in one or more of the following programs: 

  • Detoxification –When someone tries to stop drinking on their own, painful withdrawal symptoms can quickly overwhelm them. In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. Detox is a short-term program that may offer both medical and therapeutic support to help people complete the withdrawal process safely and with as little discomfort as possible.
  • Residential treatment – At the residential level, people live at the facility where they are receiving care. This allows them to focus their full attention on their treatment and their health. Typical features of residential treatment for alcoholism include full days of structured clinical services, multiple types of therapy, nutritious meals, and healthy recreational activities.
  • Intensive outpatient programming (IOP) – An IOP can be an ideal source of step-down support after a person has completed detox and/or residential treatment. Depending on their unique circumstances, people may also enter treatment directly at the IOP level. This level of care usually involves partial days of treatment three to five days per week. 

Within these programs, treatment for alcoholism often involves services such as the following:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Art and music therapy
  • Physical fitness instruction
  • Neurofeedback
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy

Begin Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Southern California

Untreated alcohol addiction can have a devastating impact on your health and well-being. But when you receive effective care from a reputable provider, your life can get much better. Renewal Health Group offers personalized treatment and comprehensive support at convenient locations throughout Southern California. When you’re ready to get started, our team of skilled and compassionate professionals is here for you. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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