Medical Conditions that Can be Caused by Alcoholism

Posted in: Alcohol Abuse

June 19, 2015

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Medical Conditions that Can be Caused by Alcoholism

Millions of Americans consume alcohol each year. SAMHSA’s 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that a little over half of Americans ages 12 and over, or roughly 135.5 million people, reported being current drinkers of alcohol.

While most people who drink alcohol do so in moderation, some abuse the substance. The NSDUH also reported that nearly 60 million people had engaged in binge drinking, which is consuming five or more drinks at one event, at least once in the 30 days before the survey. Alcohol abuse comes in many forms, but continuing to abuse alcohol over time can lead to a disorder known as alcoholism. This condition is serious in and of itself, but it can also lead to other serious medical conditions that can be severe and life threatening if left untreated.

Alcohol Use Disorders

When a person regularly consumes alcohol in excessive amounts, he might have an alcohol use disorder. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates that around 18 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder each year. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) define alcohol abuse as any consumption of alcohol that leads to problems in any of the following areas:

  • Family and friends
  • Legal
  • School
  • Work

Individuals with alcohol abuse disorders will continue to abuse alcohol in spite of the negative effects it is having on their lives.

Symptoms of Alcoholism and Alcohol Withdrawal

The more serious alcohol abuse disorder is known as alcoholism, which the NIH classifies as occurring when individuals experience the negative consequences listed above and develop a physical dependence on the substance. When a person has alcohol dependence, he will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when he tries to stop consuming alcohol. The NIH lists the following symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, which occur anywhere from a few hours to a few days after the person’s last alcoholic drink:

  • Anxiety
  • Clammy skin and sweating
  • Depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shakiness
  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia and nightmares
  • Tiredness
  • Tremors

Along with dependence and withdrawal, NIAAA also describes the following symptoms for alcoholism:

  • Feeling an intense urge to consume alcohol
  • Inability to stop drinking once the person has started drinking
  • Experiencing alcohol tolerance, which is the need to drink larger amounts of alcohol in order to feel the same effect

These symptoms of alcoholism can be serious enough on their own, but they can be even further complicated by medical conditions that can arise from excessive alcohol consumption.

Effects of Alcoholism

The Mayo Clinic lists several body systems that can be damaged from drinking too much alcohol:

  • Cardiovascular system: prolonged heavy drinking can cause high blood pressure and can increase the risk of heart failure, enlarged heart or stroke.
  • Digestive system: the stomach lining can become inflamed from heavy drinking, ulcers in the stomach and esophagus can develop, and the absorption of vitamins and nutrients can be inhibited; the pancreas can also become inflamed.
  • Eyes: some people have problems with involuntary rapid eye movement and weakness or paralysis of eye muscles after continued heavy drinking.
  • Immune system: substantial drinking can weaken the body’s defense against diseases, making a person more likely to acquire various illnesses.
  • Liver: perhaps the most immediate damage to the body from alcohol appears in the liver, which can develop alcoholic hepatitis and eventually tissue scarring called cirrhosis; alcohol also can affect the liver’s release of glucose, which can cause low blood sugar.
  • Nervous system: numbed nerves, disordered thinking, dementia and short-term memory loss.
  • Skeletal system: alcohol consumption can make it harder for the body to produce new bone, which makes bones thinner and more likely to break.

In addition to the ways alcohol can negatively affect one’s relationships, career and mental health, it can also cause severe damage to the physical body and give rise to further health complications.

Find Out More about Medical Conditions Cause by Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a serious health condition that can lead to other health complications. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism and negative health effects, please give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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