So the story goes that MD, Ph.D., Rick Fried was…
Otherwise known as an alcohol flush reaction, acetaldehyde-induced facial flush is a negative side effect from drinking alcohol that some people may experience. It is not uncommon to feel warm and get a little bit of a red face when drinking, but an acetaldehyde-induced flush is a little more specific and can have more serious side effects than a hangover the next day. Here are a few things you may not know about acetaldehyde-induced facial flush:
- This type of facial flush is induced by a buildup of acetaldehyde, a byproduct of your body processing alcohol. Anyone can suffer from acetaldehyde-induced facial flush, but the syndrome affects a large number of people of Asian descent.
- This syndrome is often associated with a high risk of esophageal cancer. It is important that people who experience acetaldehyde-induced facial flush do not drink.
- This type of facial flush can occur after even a small amount of alcohol consumption. Some people are more sensitive to alcohol than others. This means that certain people can become flushed from alcohol much sooner than their friends based on how much they have had to drink, but facial flush caused by acetaldehyde buildup doesn’t have to do with how drunk you are.
- A flushed face is not the only symptom. Some people will find that the flush will spread to their chest or back. Nausea and headache are other symptoms of acetaldehyde buildup. Because these symptoms are similar to the more typical reactions of imbibing in alcohol, it is important to monitor your body, and never assume what you are experiencing are just the normal side effects of drinking.
- Although an acetaldehyde-induced facial flush can occur within minutes of consuming alcohol, this type of flush is not associated with the top layer of skin heating up. It also won’t cause you to sweat life a normal facial flush from alcohol can.
- Some of the same causes of acetaldehyde-induced facial flush can also cause respiratory problems. If asthma or other respiratory symptoms become worse when drinking, it is important to see a doctor who can test for acetaldehyde buildup.
- You can detect whether or not you are experiencing acetaldehyde-induced facial flush by measuring the amount of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream. This can be measured with a breathalyzer, but more accurately in a blood test. If you experience any of these symptoms when you drink, check with your doctor so you can rule out this syndrome as a cause.
- Because acetaldehyde-induced facial flush is genetic, there is no cure. The only way to prevent it is to avoid drinking alcohol.
Because the symptoms of acetaldehyde buildup are pretty similar to the normal side effects of drinking alcohol, it is easy to ignore them and assume they are just slightly elevated. Unfortunately, the results of the syndrome can be much more severe than you may expect, so it is so important to see a doctor if you are questioning whether or not you may be suffering from acetaldehyde-induced facial flush.