BARRINGTON, Illinois (February 11, 2004) -- A new survey by the National Rosacea Society found that certain alcoholic beverages may aggravate rosacea more than others, while also dispelling the common myth that this red-faced condition -- estimated to affect 14 million Americans -- is caused by heavy drinking.
"While alcohol may exacerbate the signs and symptoms of rosacea, today it is well documented that this disorder can be just as severe in a nondrinker," said Dr. Diane Thiboutot, associate professor of dermatology at Pennsylvania State University. Because rosacea often results in a conspicuous red face or red nose, however, as far back as the 14th century until more recent times it was often incorrectly attributed to the "excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks."
In the survey of more than 700 rosacea patients, published in Rosacea Review, 10 percent said they rarely or never drink alcohol, and an additional 10 percent reported that consuming alcoholic beverages had no effect on their appearance. Of the survey respondents who were affected by alcohol, red wine was by far the most common culprit, triggering flare-ups of symptoms in 76 percent. In addition, 56 percent said white wine aggravated their condition and champagne caused flare-ups in 33 percent.
Beer caused rosacea flare-ups in 41 percent of the respondents, and an additional 15 percent said they were affected by malt liquor or other malt-based beverages such as "hard" lemonade.
Among hard liquors, vodka was the leading aggravator, causing flare-ups in 33 percent of the respondents. This was followed by tequila (28 percent), bourbon (24 percent), gin (24 percent), rum (24 percent) and scotch (21 percent). Respondents were allowed to mark more than one response in the survey.
For 64 percent of those affected by alcohol, just one drink was enough to cause a reaction, while 26 percent indicated they reacted after a couple of drinks and for 10 percent it took several. Seventy percent said they reacted to alcohol even when it was mixed with other substances.
Eighty-seven percent of the respondents said they now limit their consumption of alcohol because of rosacea, and 90 percent of those limiting alcohol reported that it had helped reduce their rosacea flare-ups.
"It is important that the public does not wrongly and unfairly confuse the appearance of rosacea with heavy drinking," Dr. Thiboutot said. "At the same time, in managing the disorder alcohol should be recognized as among the many common factors that can trigger or aggravate the condition in certain individuals."
Rosacea is a chronic disorder that primarily affects the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead, and is often characterized by flare-ups and remissions. It typically first appears at any time after age 30 as a flushing or redness that comes and goes. Over time, the redness becomes ruddier and more persistent, and visible blood vessels may appear.
Without treatment, bumps and pimples often develop, and in many cases the eyes feel irritated and appear watery or bloodshot. In severe cases, the nose may become swollen and enlarged from excess tissue.
In addition to alcohol, common factors that may trigger or aggravate the condition in various individuals include sun exposure, emotional stress, hot weather, wind, heavy exercise, hot baths, cold weather, spicy foods, humidity, indoor heat and heated beverages.
To help patients identify and avoid their individual rosacea triggers, the National Rosacea Society offers a free patient diary checklist and booklet, "Coping with Rosacea." To receive this material or other information on rosacea, write the National Rosacea Society, 800 S. Northwest Highway, Suite 200, Barrington, Illinois 60010, or call its toll-free number at 1-888-NO-BLUSH. Information and materials are also available on the Society's Web site at www.rosacea.org, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.