What Causes Excessive Blushing?

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Most of us have experienced instances of blushing, whether it be after being unexpectedly called on by the teacher in class, or when spotting a crush from across the room. Suddenly, we feel the familiar rush of warmth to the cheeks and know we’ve turned bright red for all to see. While these instances of blushing are nothing more than a minor and temporary annoyance, a small percentage of the population – between 5 and 7 percent – experiences excessive blushing that is a chronic problem they must deal with on a daily basis.


This excessive blushing can severely impact quality of life, causing those with the condition to face emotional and psychological issues as a result. In more severe cases, those with excessive blushing can find themselves unable to perform job interviews or be productive at work or school. Understanding why chronic blushing occurs is complex. Fortunately, there are treatment options available to help combat this condition.


What is Excessive Blushing?


Blushing in general – whether your average blushing or excessive blushing – is the involuntary reddening of the face following a particular stimulus. The nerves of the face or other affected areas of the body prompt the blood vessels to widen, subsequently flooding the skin with blood.


So what is excessive blushing, and how does it differ from regular instances of blushing? Excessive blushing, sometimes also referred to as idiopathic craniofacial erythema, is a condition in which excessive blushing is incredibly difficult and even impossible to control. While it can be provoked by situations that cause feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, or stress, it can also be brought on my seemingly no reason at all. As with typical blushing, excessive blushing is characterized by redness in the cheeks and face, as well as the spread of a warm feeling across the affected areas. Further, in addition to reddening and warming of the affected areas, those with excessive blushing may also experience increased perspiration during an episode.


What Parts of the Body are Affected?


While images of bright, rose-red cheeks are first to pop into mind when thinking of blushing, excessive blushing can impact more than just the face. In fact, those who suffer from excessive blushing will often report turning red on the chest, neck, and ears as well. The spread of blushing throughout these various areas makes for an even more uncomfortable and embarrassing experience for individuals who suffer from excessive blushing.


Causes of Excessive Blushing


Blushing during a high stress or embarrassing situation is due to the sympathetic nervous system being triggered. Triggering the sympathetic nervous system engages the body’s fight or flight response. This in turn causes the muscles that dilate and constrict the blood vessels in the body to activate. The blood vessels in the face are activated as well, thus giving the face, neck, chest, and ears a bright red color. While the average person might recover and stop blushing over time following a high stress or embarrassing situation, this is not usually the case for those suffering from excessive blushing. Instead, the onset of blushing following these intense emotional and psychological triggers will cause excessive blushers to blush even more – creating a vicious cycle that is hard to break.


It is also believed that in some patients, excessive blushing is linked to certain psychological conditions. For example, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and erythrophobia (the fear of blushing), have been known to cause excessive blushing. Some research also indicates that there may be a genetic component to excessive blushing, noting that individuals that have a family member who experiences episodes of excessive blushing are more likely to blush.


Finally, there may also be a link between fairer skin tones and excessive blushing.


How to Know When to Seek Help


Because blushing impacts almost everyone at one point or another, it may be difficult to determine at first whether you suffer from excessive blushing and should seek help. The best indicator for whether your blushing is severe is whether or not your blushing is impacting your quality of life. If you find that you are avoiding social situations, work, or school for fear of an embarrassing blushing episode, you should speak to your doctor about your concerns. Additionally, if you are simply concerned that you blush too much and find yourself thinking about your blushing on a regular basis your doctor can help determine the severity of your case and if you should pursue a treatment plan.


Treating Excessive Blushing


When it comes to excessive blushing, there are treatment options. Often the first approach is to treat any potential psychological issues that may cause or result from excessive blushing. Antidepressants, psychotherapy, anxiolytics, and biofeedback have all been used to help reduce the psychological impact of chronic facial blushing. While these treatments may be enough to reduce episodes of excessive blushing for some people, for others these solutions are simply not enough.


To treat more severe cases of excessive blushing, surgery may be recommended. The most common surgery to treat excessive blushing is endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) surgery. During this procedure, two microscopic incisions are placed in the armpit. Through these incisions, a small camera is placed to allow for visualization of the entire chest and sympathetic nerve. The T2 ganglion is then separated from the sympathetic trunk along the superior aspect of the second rib.


Recovery time following this procedure is minimal. In fact, patients can expect to be discharged within several hours. This surgery has seen a high rate of success, with over 90 percent of patients expressing that ETS-T2 has improved their excessive blushing without any negative side effects.


Treating Excessive Blushing at the Center for Hyperhidrosis


At the Center for Hyperhidrosis, we understand the emotional and psychological toll excessive blushing can have on individuals suffering from this condition. We are here to help you take back your health and wellness, and drastically improve your quality of life. Our team of specialists are standing by to take your call and discuss the excessive blushing treatments options available to you.


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