Chronic Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abusers suffer from a wide range of medical ills:

Body Systems and Organs Affected Complications
Nervous system o Intoxication with drunkenness and coma
o Withdrawal syndromes, sometimes with seizures or delirium tremens (DTs)
o Brain wasting (dementia)
o Nerve damage
o Cerebellar degeneration (deterioration of the cerebellum, the area of the brain concerned with muscle coordination and balance)

Gastrointestinal o Inflammation and irritation of the lining of the esophagus and stomach (esophagitis and gastritis)
o Increased incidence of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus
o Liver damage, such as cirrhosis or alcoholic hepatitis
o Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), sometimes leading to pancreatic failure, chronic diarrhea, and/or chronic pain

Cardiovascular o Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
o Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart
muscle causing an enlarged heart, which can lead to heart failure and death
o Elevated fats in the bloodstream

Metabolic o Low blood sugar
o Lower than normal levels of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphate in the blood

Endocrine o Decreased testosterone
o Testicular atrophy causing an increase in estrogen and thus the development of breast tissue in men (gynocomatia)

Skin o Rosacea (you know this as W. C. Fields's nose)
o Spider angiomas (harmless collections of small blood vessels under the skin often seen in men with liver failure from alcohol)

Blood o Low platelets
o Anemia
o Risk of infection
o Impaired blood clotting

Excerpted from How Not to Die by Jan Garavaglia, M.D.
Copyright © 2008 by Atlas Media Corp. and Jan Garavaglia, M.D.
Permission granted by Crown Publishers, New York, NY

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