Facial flushing and carcinoid syndrome


Facial redness is a physiological reaction that can be attributed to many reasons. For example, reactions to alcohol , fever, exercise, emotions, inflammation, allergies, or hormonal changes such as menopause are just some of the causes of noticeable redness on the face and other parts of the body.

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In rare cases, facial flushing can be a sign of a much more serious problem, including a symptom of carcinoid syndrome. Carcinoid syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms associated with enterochromaffin cell tumors, a type of neuroendocrine cells found in the gastrointestinal tract.

When rare cancers called carcinoid tumors release certain chemicals and hormones into the bloodstream, they cause a variety of symptoms. These cancers can be found in the intestines, appendix, rectum, lungs, stomach, pancreas, and thyroid gland.

The facial redness caused by carcinoid syndrome depends on the location of the tumor.

Symptoms of carcinoid syndrome.

Carcinoid syndrome generally occurs in people with advanced carcinoid tumors. The signs and symptoms of carcinoid syndrome will vary depending on the chemicals released into the bloodstream. Some of the more common signs and symptoms include:

  • Face wash : Your skin may feel hot and change color when your face is flushed, which can be caused by stress, exercise, alcohol, or no obvious cause. Your neck and upper chest can also be affected, and this symptom can last from a few minutes to several hours or more.
  • Facial skin lesions : Scars, spider veins, and areas of purple discoloration may appear on the nose and upper lip.
  • Diarrhea : People with carcinoid syndrome may have abdominal cramps and frequent visits to the bathroom.
  • Respiratory problems : With flushing of the face, wheezing and shortness of breath may occur.
  • Heart abnormalities : Fast heartbeat or heart valve problems can be a sign of carcinoid syndrome.


Physiologically, redness is caused by increased blood flow under the skin. The widening of the blood vessels is called vasodilation. This occurs as a result of the relaxation of smooth muscle cells in the walls of the blood vessels.

In areas such as the face, ears, neck, upper chest, and shoulders, there are countless blood vessels under the skin, and the dramatic increase in blood flow can cause these blood vessels to expand and fill with blood. .

In the case of carcinoid syndrome, the flushing is caused by the sudden release of vasodilator chemicals produced by the enterochromaffin cells. Some of these chemicals are serotonin, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), substance P, histamine, and catecholamines . …

Carcinoid syndrome is diagnosed with a special urine test that detects a chemical called 5-HIAA .

Watch out

The flushing of the face in carcinoid syndrome is treated by removing the tumor and giving a drug called octreotide to reduce the secretion of vasodilator chemicals.

Traditional antihistamines and H2 blockers such as cimetidine and ranitidine, used to treat acid reflux , have also been effective in treating facial flushing in carcinoid syndrome.

Treatment of carcinoid syndrome generally involves treating the underlying cancer. However, since most carcinoid tumors do not cause carcinoid syndrome until they are advanced, cure may not be possible. In such cases, medications can ease the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome and make you feel more comfortable.

Frequently asked questions

  • Flushing or flushing occurs when you have increased blood flow to your face. This is usually caused by strong emotions, exercise, certain medications, spicy foods, changes in temperature, or alcohol consumption. In some cases, it can be caused by medical conditions such as rosacea, menopause, fever, and carcinoid syndrome.

  • See your doctor if hot flashes occur constantly or if you have other symptoms such as diarrhea, hives, wheezing, or shortness of breath.

  • It depends on the cause. You can avoid certain causes, such as spicy foods, extreme temperatures, or drinking alcohol. For health conditions like carcinoid syndrome, seek medical attention.

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