Some of the most dangerous risks of alcohol abuse are commonly known. They include a long-term dependence that can interfere with relationships and work responsibilities and negatively impact decision-making. Drinking and driving, unprotected sex, and accidental injuries are all dangers of frequent alcohol misuse. The long-term effects of alcoholism add further threats. Those who abuse alcohol are at an increased risk of developing one of several dangerous and potentially deadly diseases that can negatively impact the brain, nerves, muscle tissue, heart, stomach, liver, pancreas, and other organs.
What follows are seven common alcohol-related diseases. While the risks associated with these conditions are very real, you can reduce your risks by limiting your alcohol use. If you need help reducing your alcohol consumption—or quitting altogether—ask for help from a trusted substance use disorder and recovery expert today.
- Alcoholic Polyneuropathy. This disease of the peripheral nerves is caused by excessive alcohol use. It results in nerve damage and symptoms that include unusual sensations in the limbs, reduced mobility, and loss of some bodily functions.
- Alcoholic Myopathy. This is a disease of the muscle tissue in which alcohol overuse weakens muscle fibers. Symptoms range from acute to severe and include muscle weakness, a decrease in muscle mass known as atrophy, muscle cramps, stiffness, and spasms.
- Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy. This form of heart disease is caused by the toxic effects of alcohol on the heart muscle. Excessive alcohol use reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively, which can lead to heart failure. It is most common in men between the ages of 35 and 50.
- Alcoholic Gastritis. Repeated alcohol use can irritate or erode parts of the stomach lining. As a result, the lining of the stomach becomes more sensitive and vulnerable to the acidic juices produced by the body to help digest food.
- Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis. Alcoholic liver cirrhosis is the most advanced form of liver disease related to drinking alcohol. The liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood. Excessive drinking over decades can start to cause scar tissue within the liver. When too much scar tissue develops, the liver can stop functioning.
- Alcohol-Induced Pancreatitis. Defined by long-lasting inflammation of the pancreas, the damage may not cause symptoms for many years until the condition exacerbates quickly. Symptoms of pancreatitis include upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back that can be worsened by consuming high-fat foods. A swollen abdomen that is sore to the touch, increased heart rate, fever, nausea, and vomiting are also common.
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Women who are pregnant and abuse alcohol not only put themselves at risk, they put their unborn child at risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition that can cause congenital disabilities or in the worst case, fetal death.
Other Alcohol-Related Risk Factors
In addition to the alcohol-related diseases listed above, those who abuse alcohol long-term may be at higher risk of developing cancer, depressive disorder, epilepsy, high blood pressure, and stroke. Remember that heavy drinking is defined for men as five or more drinks in one sitting or 15 drinks or more during a week. For women, excessive drinking is defined as four drinks on one occasion or eight drinks over the course of a week. If you believe you may be at risk of developing a long-term dependence on alcohol and would like help reducing your consumption habits, talk to a substance use expert that you can trust today. The sooner you begin limiting your alcohol use, the faster you begin to reduce your risk for health complications later in life.