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.

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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 38°C (100.4°F).

Learn more about fevers.

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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:

For example, Cushing’s syndrome causes the body to produce too much cortisol, which can cause flushing. This syndrome can also lead a person to develop:

Learn more about Cushing’s syndrome.

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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:

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.

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Brooks, Pj & Enoch, Mary-Anne & Goldman, David & Li, Ting-Kai & Yokoyama, Akira. (2009). The Alcohol Flushing Response: An Unrecognized Risk Factor for Esophageal Cancer from Alcohol Consumption. PLoS medicine. 6. e50.

Alcohol raises blood pressure and causes the blood vessels to expand, which can cause flushed skin.

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
  • pimples
  • 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:

  • stress
  • sun exposure
  • hot or cold temperatures
  • specific foods or drinks
  • certain medications

Learn more about rosacea.

Carcinoid syndrome is a rare condition that can cause flushed skin on the face and chest. The syndrome occurs in around 10% of people with a carcinoid tumor.

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.

Medullary thyroid carcinoma is the type of thyroid cancer most likely to cause flushing, but it accounts for just 4% of thyroid cancers.

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:

  • hives
  • 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:

  • becomes more frequent or severe
  • does not seem to relate to heat, exercise, or emotional responses
  • occurs alongside other unexplained symptoms, such as diarrhea or a racing heart
  • is causing significant embarrassment, stress, or anxiety

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?

The flu virus, dengue fever, and any other virus that causes a fever can cause facial flushing.

How do you fix flushing skin?

Treatments for flushed skin can depend on the underlying cause. Treating the condition may help to manage facial flushing and other symptoms. If facial flushing is a side effect of medication, then it may resolve once a person stops taking the medication. However, it is important to continue taking any prescription medication until a doctor advises otherwise.

Why is my face flushed and hot?

Exercise and exposure to heat can cause the face to feel flushed and hot. If symptoms occur alongside breathing difficulties, confusion, or exhaustion, it could indicate heatstroke or heat exhaustion. If this is the case, a person should seek immediate medical help.

Can blood pressure cause flushed skin?

According to the American Heart Association, facial flushing occurs equally in people with and without high blood pressure, or hypertension. However, some factors that temporarily raise blood pressure can also cause facial flushing. These include emotional stress, consuming alcohol, exercising, and exposure to hot environments.

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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.

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