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Medical and physical effects of alcoholism

👤Dr Harikumar 🕔31/10/2014
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Medical and physical effects of alcoholism

Fatal attraction

A look at the  bad effects of alcoholism on our health and the possible diseases it can cause

By Dr.Harikumar R.Nair(Consultant Gastroenterologist,AIMS)

Although one to two drinks per week in an otherwise healthy and non pregnant individual can have some beneficial effects (weak scientific proof), at higher doses alcohol is toxic to most organ systems.

A popular misconception is that liver is the only organ damaged by alcohol; in reality, virtually every organ system is affected by alcohol

Stomach & Intestines: The small intestine is where the majority of the consumed alcohol will be absorbed in to the bloodstream. The alcohol that does not become absorbed through the walls of the small intestine will stay in the stomach and can cause irritation. Drinking alcohol and taking medication that causes stomach irritation, such as aspirin, can cause gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), ulcers, and severe bleeding.

Heart: High blood pressure associated with heavy drinking makes the heart work harder than it needs to and can be a key risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, with an increased intake of alcohol, levels of fats in the blood can become elevated which lead to heart problems.Weakening of heart muscle tissue can cause pump failure (Cardiomyopathy)

Brain &Nerves & Muscles:  Alcohol acts on nerve cells in the brain. The cerebral cortex is most affected. This cortex is responsible for thinking, reasoning, perceiving, and producing and understanding language. Domestic violence, crime and road traffic accidents are all due  to the effect of alcohol on cerebral cortex. In the long run, brain shrinks (atrophy) and nerves degenerate (Neuropathy).Muscle weakness and cramps along with decreased bone mineral density.

Liver:  Bears major brunt of alcoholism. Even moderate social drinkers can experience liver damage. Diseases such as Alcoholic Hepatitis or cirrhosis can develop from heavy alcohol consumption. Normally, toxins and wastes in the blood get filtered out when blood passes through the liver. If scar tissue (created from alcohol killing the cells) keeps blood from flowing through the liver, the blood doesn’t get filtered, leaving toxins and waste to build up in the body. This can lead to confusion, agitation, tremors and even comas. Once cirrhosis sets in liver cancer can also develop.

Genitourinary System, Sexual Functioning: Modest ethanol doses (e.g., blood alcohol concentrations of 100 mg/dL) increase sexual drive and decrease erectile capacity in men. Alcoholic men may show irreversible testicular atrophy, decreases in ejaculate volume, and a lower sperm count. The repeated ingestion of  high doses of ethanol by women can result in irregularities in menstrual periods, decrease in ovarian size, infertility, and spontaneous abortions.

 Pregnancy-Spontaneous abortion, Growth retardation of baby, death, decreased birth weight, premature delivery and congenital malformations in the baby

Cancer risk: Alcohol is implicated in the genesis of many cancers-oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, lung, liver, pancreas and colon




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