Rhinophyma Overview

Elderly man's face over white background
Rhinophyma, a progression of acne rosacea, is characterized by a red and bulbous nose. See more pictures of skin problems.
©iStockphoto.com/Andrejs Pidjass

Located front and center on your face, your nose can say a lot about you. A swollen, runny nose, for example, lets everyone know a cold or allergy has taken over. If the skin on your nose is bright red and peeling after a day in the sun, it tells everyone you forgot your sunscreen. Even a small pimple seems to take on a life of its own when it pops up on the tip of your nose. So when you develop a more serious skin condition in your nasal area, like rhinophyma, it can raise a red flag quickly.

Rhinophyma is a severe skin condition characterized by a red, inflamed and bulbous nose [source: Medline Plus]. In people with rhinophyma, the skin on the nose gets thicker, becomes bumpy and may take on a yellowish tone. The facial pores become enlarged, and the number of oil-producing glands in the skin may increase. Ultimately, the condition can become so pronounced that the tissue around the nose swells and grows to a point where the nose is disfigured. Like many skin conditions, rhinophyma doesn't develop overnight. It is the last stage in the progression of acne rosacea, a skin disorder that affects the face [source: International Rosacea Foundation].


While researchers have documented rhinophyma cases in people as young as 20, it generally occurs in Caucasian men in their 40s to 60s [source: Baylor College of Medicine]. Rhinophyma can affect both men and women; however, it is 12 times more likely to occur in men. Despite those odds for men, it is still considered a rare skin disorder.

To better understand this condition, read on to learn more about rosacea and the progression to rhinophyma.


Rhinophyma Causes

Nobody really knows what causes rhinophyma [source: Rosacea.org]. There doesn't seem to be a clear reason why some people develop rhinophyma and others do not. What is known is that rhinophyma is the last stage in the progression of acne rosacea.

Rosacea is a skin disorder that causes the face to excessively blush or turn red. Blood vessels under the skin expand, allowing more blood to flow to the surface. The extra blood near the surface of the skin gives those with rosacea their typical flushed appearance.


In milder cases of rosacea, a person's face usually stays flushed and red for a few hours or days [source: International Rosacea Foundation]. The face takes on a mild sunburned or windburned appearance, and the skin there may feel tight and tender and sting when touched. Once the facial irritation has passed, the redness goes down. At this stage, there usually are no associated red bumps or pimples.

With stage II or moderate rosacea, the face stays red for days or weeks on end [source: International Rosacea Foundation]. Small bumps form there, especially around the nose, cheeks and chin. The bumps are pimple-like and not an outbreak of blackheads. Blood vessels in the skin can become damaged at this stage [source: Facial Rosacea]. The damaged blood vessels allow more blood to flow to the face, making the facial redness semi-permanent. Swelling of the tissue around the face increases as well.

In the most severe stage of acne rosacea, the skin thickens and becomes swollen with enlarged pores that become clogged. Acne becomes severe and does not calm down or clear up on its own. Pus-filled pockets and deep pits form under the skin, especially around the cheeks and nose [source: International Rosacea Foundation]. Left untreated for months or years, damaged blood vessels can cause permanent changes to the skin. This is when rhinophyma is often diagnosed.

Once a doctor diagnoses rhinophyma, there are several ways to treat it. Read on to learn how to reverse the damage and disfigurement caused by this disorder.


Rhinophyma Treatments

Left untreated, rhinophyma will not clear up on its own. And by the time the condition is diagnosed, the changes your skin has undergone are usually significant. Thanks to some medical advances, however, it is possible to treat the effects of rhinophyma with some degree of success.

One method involves treating the acne rosacea. Acne creams, lotions and prescriptions such as benzoyl peroxide or retinoids may be used to treat acne and facial redness [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Doctors often prescribe medications, such as antibiotics, to clear up infections from inflamed skin tissue and encourage patients to pay careful attention to hygiene so that they can avoid irritating the skin further. In order to provide relief to irritated tissue, patients may also have to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, cosmetics that dry out the skin or extreme heat or cold. These treatments may help reduce the swelling and redness associated with acne rosacea.


Another problem presented by rhinophyma is the extra growth of skin that often accompanies the condition. Today, the nose can be reshaped under the guidance of a doctor with one of the following medical procedures:

  • Surgery to remove extra tissue and reform the shape of the nose. This is commonly known as reconstructive or cosmetic surgery. It's performed with a scalpel under anesthetic.
  • Lasers -- such as a CO2 laser -- to reduce and reshape the tissue on the nose. These treatments usually involve less bleeding than conventional surgery.
  • Electro surgery to cut and remove extra tissue with the use of electrical currents [source: Baylor College of Medicine].
  • Dermabrasion, or the use of a rotating brush [source: Medline Plus]. This procedure smoothes and reshapes the nose and is usually combined with other procedures. Dermabrasion is often used as a fine-tuning procedure to reduce the appearance of scar tissue [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Of course, undergoing surgery to treat rhinophyma is a personal choice. Before making that decision, read on to learn more about the effects rhinophyma can have on your life.


Effects of Rhinophyma

Before deciding to live with rhinophyma, you should consider what exactly that means. Rhinophyma can have a profound impact on both your physical and social well-being. For example, many people who have rhinophyma experience difficulty breathing. This side effect occurs when the extra growth of tissue and skin on the nose blocks their nasal airways. Bumps that can inhibit breathing may also develop on the bottom of your nose [source: yourENThealth.com].

Rhinophyma can also affect your self-esteem and social life. Many who have the condition feel uncomfortable about their appearance, and as a result, tend to shy away from social interaction. Though it's hard to measure by medical standards, this can lead to a lower quality of life overall.


With the medical treatments that are available today, however, patients can improve any breathing issues and their appearance by removing the extra skin growth associated with rhinophyma. Scars and pitting can also be reduced through dermabrasion. Recovery time varies depending on the severity and type of treatment, but patients can usually expect to return to normal activities within a few days or weeks. Redness from tissue removal should decrease in about a year [source: MedTV].

For more information to help you deal with a condition like rhinophyma, read on to the next page.


Lots More Information

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More Great Links

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Rosacea." (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_rosacea.html
  • Dr.Nase.com. "Facial Rosacea: Stages and Subtypes of Rosacea." (Accessed 8/1/09) http://www.drnase.com/stages.htm
  • Funk, Etai, M.D. "Rhinophyma." Baylor College of Medicine: Bobby R. Alford Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.bcm.edu/oto/grand/02_26_04.html
  • International Rosacea Foundation. "Symptoms of Rosacea." (Accessed 8/1/09) http://www.internationalrosaceafoundation.org/symptoms_1.php4
  • Medline Plus. "Rhinophyma." (Accessed 8/1/09) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001037.htm
  • MedTV. "Rhinophyma." (Accessed 8/1/09)http://rosacea.emedtv.com/rhinophyma/rhinophyma.html
  • Rosacea.org. "Rosacea Review." (Accessed 8/1/09) http://www.rosacea.org/rr/1996/summer/article_4.php
  • Rosacea.org. "Rosacea Tiggers Survey." (Access 8/1/09)http://www.rosacea.org/patients/materials/triggersgraph.php
  • RosaceaNet. "Glossary." (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/rosaceanet/glossary.html
  • YourENThealth.com "Sinus Pain: What Causes Sinus/Breathing Problems? (Accessed 8/1/09) http://www.yourenthealth.com/what_causes_sinus_breathing_problems
  • Zane, Randall S., MD. "Rhinophyma." Baylor College of Medicine: Bobby R. Alford Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.bcm.edu/oto/grand/102992.html