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An Uncomfortable Truth: 8 Diseases Caused By Alcohol

Written By:

Brian Chasin

a man laying his head on a bar top looking sick and staring at his alcoholic beverage

Almost 13% of adults in America have an alcohol use disorder. Chronic alcoholism can cause you to push away family and friends, lose your job, or worse. You could end up in a tragic accident as your inhibitions waver.

Alcohol use can impact your social life, mind, and body. Despite the numerous side effects of drinking, many people don’t realize the diseases it can cause. It doesn’t stop at liver damage.

Here are eight common diseases caused by alcohol use. By learning more about the toll alcohol use takes on your body, you can make a change. Getting help and putting an end to your alcohol use could save your life.

Keep reading to learn about the health risks of alcohol use.

1. Cancer

An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year. Not many people realize, however, that chronic alcoholism is also connected to cancer.

This study concluded that regular alcohol consumption increases the risk you’ll develop certain types of cancer, including:

  • Oral
  • Pharynx
  • Esophagus
  • Larynx
  • Liver
  • Rectum
  • Colon
  • Stomach
  • Female breast
  • Ovaries

If you drink and smoke, you could also increase your risk of cancers of the upper digestive and respiratory tract.

The alcohol itself along with the acetaldehyde it produces are responsible for this increased risk. Your body metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is a toxic and carcinogenic substance.

2. Pancreatitis

If you’re a heavy alcohol drinker, you might want to visit a doctor. They can run tests to determine the long-term and short-term diseases caused by alcohol you’ve developed. In some cases, extreme alcohol use could even land you in the hospital.

For example, over-drinking can cause pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis occurs when your pancreas becomes inflamed. This condition leads to your pancreas’ structure and functionality breaking down entirely.

Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. As the condition progresses, you could develop type 1 diabetes. Diabetes can cause tiredness, weight loss, intense hunger, and thirst.

Your pancreas is a gland organ located behind your stomach and below your rib cage. It’s responsible for producing the hormones and enzymes that break down your foods. The pancreas also produces insulin to moderate sugar levels within your blood.

Patients with pancreatitis will need to make lifestyle changes. For starters, they need to give up drinking to prevent damaging their pancreas further.

In severe cases, however, you’ll experience severe pain and require surgery. In order to further reduce pancreatitis symptoms, you’ll also need to change your diet. Otherwise, you might experience high or low blood pressure.

Changing your diet can decrease your likelihood of pancreatitis flare-ups.

The most common cause of pancreatitis is alcohol use. In fact, about 70 to 80% of cases involve alcoholism.

3. Liver Disease

When you drink alcohol, it’s your liver’s responsibility to metabolize it. Unfortunately, this process can cause severe damage to the liver. Once the alcohol is metabolized, it turns into acetaldehyde, which can damage other organs.

The risks of alcohol-related liver disease increase based on how often and how much you drink. As the frequency and amount increase, so does your risk of alcoholic liver disease.

You might develop alcoholic fatty liver, which is reversible. Chronic drinking, however, will alter how your body metabolizes fats. In time, the excess fat will accumulate within your liver.

Your liver might also experience long-term inflammation. Excess inflammation can cause alcoholic hepatitis, which could cause scar tissue. Over the years, scarring can invade your liver, leading to cirrhosis.

In other words, the diseases caused by alcohol don’t stop liver damage. In fact, liver damage can lead to even more severe conditions. When your liver doesn’t function properly, you could experience multiple organ failures and death!

4. Immune System Dysfunction

Chronic drinking could also impact your body’s ability to fight off diseases. Alcohol alters white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. As a result, you could increase your risk of:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Pneumonia
  • HIV infection

Without a strong immune system, your body will fail to fight off infections and invaders. A drug and alcohol addiction program can help before this damage occurs.

5. Gastrointestinal Damage

Your gastrointestinal tract takes a hit from chronic alcohol use, too. As a result, you might experience:

  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Gastritis (inflammation)

When your digestive system experiences damage, it can lead to internal bleeding.

6. Vitamin Deficiencies

Your body needs the right balance of vitamins and nutrients to function properly. Otherwise, you could develop a vitamin deficiency like anemia. Anemia reduces your red blood cells, which can cause fatigue, chest pain, and breathlessness.

Most vitamin deficiencies occur based on your diet. However, your gastrointestinal tract is responsible for absorbing these nutrients into the blood. If your gastrointestinal tract is damaged from alcohol use, you won’t get the nutrients you need.

Calcium and vitamin D deficiency could also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Your bones need calcium in order to remain strong. Vitamin D, on the other hand, helps your body absorb calcium for use.

An increased risk of osteoporosis also increases your risk of bone fractures.

7. Heart Disease

Chronic alcoholism can also increase your blood pressure. Alcohol encourages the body to release certain hormones. These hormones can cause your blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to the heart.

Alcoholism is also associated with other cardiovascular conditions. These often include angina and high blood pressure. Your risk of heart failure will increase as well.

When your cardiovascular health is at risk, you could also increase your chance of a stroke. You need to maintain your blood pressure. Otherwise, fluctuations can increase platelet activation.

This often occurs when your body is in the process of recovering after heavy drinking.

8. Brain Damage

Alcohol use impacts how the brain functions, causing memory lapses, slurred speech, and slowed reaction time. This occurs as alcohol impacts how brain receptors and neurotransmitters interact. Over time, alcoholism can impact how the brain ages, causing early-onset dementia.

It’s Time to Get Help: 8 Diseases Caused by Alcohol Use

Don’t wait to put an end to your drinking. Otherwise, you could experience any of these diseases caused by alcohol use (and then some). Think about it the next time you pick up a bottle.

Recovery starts here. Contact our team today to get started.

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