What Are the Causes of Blushing?
Blushing, or sudden reddening of the face, neck, or upper chest, is a normal human response. There are many reasons that humans blush. Extreme emotions, certain foods and spices, and some medications can all cause reddening of the face. Chronic facial blushing, however, should be evaluated by a doctor, since it can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
The body response called blushing is the result of increased blood flow to the capillaries of the “blush area,” which includes the face, ears, neck, and sometimes the upper chest. It is not yet known whether blushing only occurs in this area, or if it is simply more visible there (capillaries in this region are more numerous and closer to the skin’s surface than in other parts of the body, which is why blushing is much more obvious in people with lighter skin tones). Blushing can be distinguished from flushing, which is redness occurring in a more widespread area of the body. Blushing is often associated with emotions, whereas flushing is not.
Humans blush when we are angry, overly excited, embarrassed, or feeling some other strong emotion. This response varies widely: some people rarely blush at all and for others, it is an ongoing, humiliating problem that can result in social awkwardness. In chronic blushers, merely thinking about blushing can bring on an episode.
Foods and Alcohol
Spicy foods, such as hot peppers, can cause facial blushing, as can alcoholic beverages. Blushing is also brought on by certain drugs, such as those used to treat diabetes or high cholesterol.
Hormonal imbalances occurring during menopause can cause facial blushing, as can elevated body temperature associated with infections. More serious causes of blushing are rosacea and carcinoid syndrome, which is why chronic blushing should always be checked out by a doctor.
Although blushing is a normal human response, severe or chronic blushing can be a nuisance. The most obvious treatment for blushing caused by foods and alcohol is avoidance. Blushing caused by necessary drugs is a more difficult problem to solve, and will require a visit to the doctor to discuss other options. Significant emotional or social blushing can be alleviated to a large extent by mental exercises and relaxation techniques. Underlying medical conditions causing facial redness must be treated by a doctor.