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What is drinker's nose?

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Quick Answer

Drinker's nose is a colloquial term for a red, bulbous, lumpy nose, which was once thought to be caused by alcohol abuse, according to WebMD. Instead, a red and swollen nose can be a caused by rhinophyma, an uncommon form of the skin disorder rosacea.

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Rosacea and rhinophyma occur just as frequently in non-drinkers as in drinkers, WebMD states. Rosacea presents as redness of the face, particularly the cheeks. Many rosacea and rhinophyma sufferers are unjustly stigmatized by the widespread belief that heavy drinking causes their condition. Though alcohol consumption does not cause rhinophyma, it can trigger a flare-up of this condition. Typically appearing after age 30, the facial redness of rosacea comes and goes, but over time grows worse and more persistent.

Rhinophyma is more common in men than in women, according to Medline Plus. Rhinophyma is treated with surgery, but currently there is no cure. Perhaps the most famous rhinophyma sufferer is the film actor W.C. Fields.

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