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Date of last update: 10/18/2017.

Forum Name: Dermatology Topics

Question: red face caused by alcohol

 cgreenieuk - Sat Sep 27, 2003 3:18 pm


everytime i drink alcohol my face neck and sometimes my chest goes bright red and i get a burning sensation. obviously this causes a lot of embarrassment and i was wondering if theres anything i can do to prevent or limit the redness.
thank you
 Dr. Tamer Fouad - Tue Sep 30, 2003 8:09 pm

User avatar As many as 50 percent of people of Asian descent experience a flushed complexion after drinking alcohol. Alcohol flush reaction, the more technical name, describes the body's inability to break down ingested alcohol completely. You and others like you have an inactive enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), which is normally responsible for breaking down acetaldehyde, a byproduct of the metabolism of alcohol. Acetaldehyde is a toxin and if your body can't break it down, it accumulates and causes flushing. Other symptoms you might experience include dizziness, nausea, headaches, and an increased pulse.

Scientists don't know why the enzyme is inactive primarily in people of Asian descent, but it is genetic and can be passed on by either or both parents. Some researchers find that the presence of the mutation can help account for the lower levels of alcoholism in Asian communities, since many of the symptoms of alcohol flush reaction discourage people from drinking. There is some evidence that ALDH2 is inactive in higher than average levels in people of Jewish descent as well.

Because it's genetic, there isn't much you can do to prevent your red face. Tolerance levels and the severity of flushing and other symptoms vary from individual to individual.

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