Flushed skin can be a visual sign of embarrassment, anxiety, or being too hot. However, frequent flushing can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Flushed skin occurs when the hundreds of tiny blood vessels just beneath the skin dilate or widen. When these blood vessels expand, they rapidly fill with more blood, making the skin appear red, pink, or darker than the surrounding area.
This effect is more noticeable in regions of the body where the blood vessels are closest to the skin, such as the cheeks and chest.
Flushed skin is typically no cause for concern and is often short-lived. This article covers the most common causes of facial flushing.
Fevers are a common sign of an infection and often occur alongside additional symptoms, including skin discoloration and flushing.
A person has a fever if their body temperature rises above
Learn more about fevers.
Strong emotional responses can cause facial flushing, also called blushing. Intense emotions that may cause this increase in facial blood flow include:
When a person becomes too hot, their blood vessels widen to cool down the body. This response can also cause flushed skin.
Exercise, intensive physical activity, or sudden changes in temperature can all have this result.
Flushing that results from exercise or being in a hot environment is usually not a cause for concern.
However, flushed skin that occurs with certain other symptoms can be a sign of a heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or heatstroke. These symptoms include:
Learn more about heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
The endocrine system consists of glands that produce hormones, which are chemical messengers that send information from one area of the body to another. Hormones travel through the bloodstream and help regulate various bodily functions.
Any endocrine disorder that produces high levels of hormones that affect the following may cause flushing:
- blood pressure
- blood vessel widening
Learn more about Cushing’s syndrome.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition that can cause joint aches, rashes, and fatigue.
While lupus can cause a wide range of symptoms, a butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose and both cheeks is a hallmark of the condition.
Learn more about lupus and its symptoms.
Certain medications can cause flushed skin as a side effect in some people. These drugs may include:
- some antibiotics
- calcium-channel blockers
- nicotinic acid
- thyroid-releasing hormone
- opioids, such as morphine
If a person is concerned about flushed skin that results from taking a particular medication, a doctor may be able to recommend an alternative drug.
The more alcohol a person consumes, the more likely they are to notice their skin flushing. Flushed skin after drinking alcohol is not usually a cause for concern.
Rosacea is a long-term skin condition that usually occurs on the face and can cause:
- redness or discoloration
- visible blood vessels
- other skin problems
Rosacea often begins with flushing, and each bout of flushing may last a little longer than the previous one.
The cause of rosacea is not clear. However, certain factors can trigger a flare-up of symptoms in some people. Common triggers include:
- sun exposure
- hot or cold temperatures
- specific foods or drinks
- certain medications
Learn more about rosacea.
A carcinoid tumor is an uncommon type of cancer that usually starts in the digestive tract but can spread to other body parts, including the liver, pancreas, and lungs.
Thyroid cancer can change the behavior of the thyroid gland, which can affect hormone production and may cause flushing.
Learn more about medullary thyroid carcinoma.
Menopause is when a person permanently stops having their period.
In people going through menopause, changing hormone levels can affect blood flow and cause bouts of flushing called hot flashes. During a hot flash, a person may experience a sudden, intense feeling of heat that can spread throughout the body.
People who are concerned about their menopause symptoms can speak with a doctor about treatment options.
Learn more about treatment for menopausal hot flashes.
Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) is a condition that can cause a person to experience symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as:
- flushed skin
- difficulty breathing
Mast cells are part of the immune system, and MCAS occurs when the body releases too many substances inside these cells at inappropriate times.
Learn more about MCAS.
Flushed skin is usually harmless.
However, it can sometimes indicate an underlying condition. It is best to see a doctor if flushing:
Below are answers to common questions about facial flushing.
Why is my skin flushed for no reason?
Facial flushing happens when the blood vessels below the skin fill with more blood than usual. There is always a reason for skin flushing. Common causes include heat or exertion, emotional responses, and reactions to ingested substances.
What deficiency causes a flushed face?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that certain B vitamin deficiencies or excesses may increase the risk of facial flushing. For example, vitamin B3, also called niacin, helps regulate blood vessel dilation, and an imbalance may affect these processes.
What virus causes facial flushing?
Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on dermatology.
Flushed skin occurs when the blood vessels just below the skin widen and fill with more blood.
For most people, occasional flushing is not a cause for concern. It can result from being too hot, exercising, or emotional responses. Flushed skin can also be a side effect of drinking alcohol or taking certain medications.
However, flushing can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition, such as rosacea, cancer, or an endocrine disorder. It is best for people to contact a doctor if flushing is worsening, occurs alongside other symptoms, or has no apparent cause.