Blushing is the involuntary reddening of the face, usually triggered by emotions such as embarrassment or stress.

Other areas of the body such as the neck, earsand upper chest can also be affected. As well as causing redness, blushing can sometimes make the affected area feel hot.

What causes blushing?

"Normal" blushing occurs when a strong emotional trigger stimulates the nervous system, resulting in the widening of the blood vessels in the face.

Thisincreases the flow of blood into the blood vessels just underneath the skin, causing your face to turn red.

Abnormal(severe or frequent) blushingcan have both psychological and physical causes, including:

  • social anxiety disorder (social phobia) a persistent and excessive fear of social situations
  • generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) a long-term condition that causes anxiety about a wide range of situations and issues
  • rosacea a common skin condition that mainly affects the face
  • the menopause where a woman stops having monthly periods , usually between 45 and 55 years of age
  • certain medications such as the breast cancer medication tamoxifen

Blushing can also be triggered by drinking alcohol or hot drinks, eating hot or spicy food, strenuous exercise and sudden changes in temperature.

But frequent and severe blushing can have a significant psychological impact, leading peopleto avoid certain situations and interacting with other people.

You should consider speaking to your GP if you blush frequently and it's affecting your quality of life.

Available treatments

If abnormal blushing is affecting your quality of life, you may benefit from treatment. The specifictreatmentofferedwill depend on the underlying cause of your blushing.

If the underlying cause is thought to be psychological, such as an irrational fear ( phobia ) or anxiety disorder, a talking treatment called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can often be effective.

Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also help relieve any associated feelings of anxiety and worry.

If the underlying cause is physical, such as the menopause or rosacea, you may be advised to avoid common triggers such as stress, alcohol and spicy foods. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also help women with menopausal hot flushes.

A surgical procedure called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) may be considered if your blushing is particularly severe and other treatments haven't been effective.But this type of surgery carries a risk of long-term problems such as excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 13 Jan 2017