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Written by Amethyst Recovery

Amethyst Recovery is a foremost authority on addiction and a trusted online source of substance abuse information. Their expert team of addiction professionals provide well researched content for people in the grip of addiction. All posts are fact checked and sourced.

Outward Signs of An Alcoholic

If you believe a loved one or someone you know is an alcoholic, are there outward signs? The answer is yes, there can sometimes be obvious signs of an alcoholic, but in many cases, the disease has progressed significantly by the time there are obvious outward signs.

Obvious Signs

Many of the most obvious signs of an alcoholic that can be observable by an outsider are related to behavior. Alcoholism will cause a person’s overall behavior and moods to change, often dramatically. Someone who is an alcoholic will make drinking a top priority. Their focus will constantly be on having their next drink, and they will avoid other interests or responsibilities to drink more.

Alcoholics may be defensive or secretive about their drinking, and they may lose interest in even the basics of daily life such as their job or hygiene.

Along with lifestyle and behavioral signs of an alcoholic, there can be physical signs as well. These physical signs can vary depending upon the stage of alcoholism a person is in.

For example, if someone is an alcoholic, they may exhibit signs of weight loss because they aren’t getting proper nutrition. They may have a distended stomach, despite the fact that they’re losing weight in other places. An alcoholic, particularly one who’s in the later stages of the disease, may appear unkempt, and they may even have a yellowish tint to their eyes and skin.

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Signs of Intoxication

Intoxication occurs when someone has had so much to drink that they’re drunk. The signs of alcoholic intoxication vary depending on how much someone has had.

If someone has had a smaller amount of alcohol, the signs of intoxication may include seeming mildly sedated and having poor coordination.

Higher dose intoxication may include slurred speech, vomiting and problems walking.

If someone has extremely large amounts of alcohol they may have decreased breathing, and they may go into a coma or die.

Visual Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is a severe emergency situation that can be life-threatening. If someone has a large amount of alcohol in a very short period of time, they may develop alcohol poisoning. The effects of alcohol poisoning can include decreased breathing and heart rate, problems with body temperature regulation and coma or death.

Visual signs of alcohol poisoning may include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Seizures
  • Blue or pale skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Loss of consciousness

If it’s possible a person could be experiencing alcohol poisoning, it’s essential to seek emergency medical care.

How to Tell if an Alcoholic is Experiencing Health Problems

An alcoholic, especially over time, will likely start to experience health effects related to their drinking. These effects can occur to the brain and the body and can be both mental and physical. Some of the most severe health effects of alcoholism are often related to the liver because this is where alcohol is metabolized.

An Alcoholic Liver

An alcoholic liver is a term that can refer to different specific conditions. Overall, when someone regularly and for a long period of time has abused alcoholic, they may develop alcoholic liver disease.

The liver is one of the most complex and important organs we have in our body. It’s responsible for maintaining more than 500 essential functions.

These functions include the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol, storing energy, and filtering toxins from the blood.

If someone has alcoholic liver disease or even just early signs of liver damage, it can affect their whole body and their overall health. However, it does take a long time for liver damage to become outwardly noticeable and for symptoms to occur because the liver can repair itself.

Once there are apparent signs of alcoholic liver damage, it can be difficult to treat the resulting symptoms and conditions.

Chronic Liver Disease

Alcoholic liver disease is the primary factor leading to chronic liver disease in western countries. Alcoholic liver disease is also the third most common reason people require liver transplants. If someone starts to show signs of chronic alcoholic liver disease, their only option to recover is to stop drinking completely.

Early signs of chronic alcoholic liver disease can include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The problem with the earliest signs of alcoholic liver disease is that it’s easy to dismiss them as being related to something else.

As someone’s disease progresses and worsens, the symptoms will become more severe and more noticeable. These later symptoms and signs of chronic alcoholic liver disease can include:

  • Yellowing of the whites of the eyes and the skin—known as jaundice
  • Edema, which is a swelling of lower limbs
  • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen called ascites
  • Fever
  • Shivering
  • Itchiness
  • Curving fingernails
  • Losing a lot of weight
  • Weakness and muscle deterioration
  • Blood in stools and vomit
  • Easily bleeding and bruising
  • Sensitivity to alcohol

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is another condition related to the liver. It’s an inflammation of the liver, which is the direct result of alcohol consumption. However, alcoholic hepatitis can occur not only in long-term heavy drinkers but sometimes even in people who are moderate drinkers.

Jaundice is the most common sign of alcoholic hepatitis. Other signs of alcoholic hepatitis are similar to signs of chronic alcoholic liver disease and can include weight loss, nausea and vomiting, and tenderness of the abdomen.

Most people who have alcoholic hepatitis are also malnourished because they are getting the bulk of their calories from alcohol.

Fatty Liver

Fatty liver disease is also called hepatic steatosis. This refers to a condition where fat builds up in the liver. If someone has too much fat that’s accumulated in their liver, it can create health problems. There are usually no initial signs of fatty liver disease. However, if someone’s condition worsens, certain symptoms may become apparent.

These symptoms may include weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.

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Liver Cirrhosis

When someone drinks heavily over a long period their liver’s healthy tissue is damaged and is replaced with scar tissue. As this continues, the liver’s functionality starts to decline. Alcoholic liver cirrhosis is considered the most advanced type of liver disease related to heavy drinking and alcoholism.

There is often a progression of liver diseases. Usually people who drink heavily will start with fatty liver disease. Then, they may develop alcoholic hepatitis and eventually alcoholic cirrhosis. However, it is possible to develop alcoholic liver cirrhosis without having alcoholic hepatitis first.

Symptoms of alcoholic liver cirrhosis can include:

  • Jaundice
  • Itching of the skin
  • Increased blood pressure in the vein that goes through the liver

When Alcoholism Effects a Person’s Medical History

While the above health signs of an alcoholic are related primarily to the liver, alcoholism and alcohol abuse can affect health in other serious ways as well.

Dementia

Alcoholic dementia is also called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome or alcohol-induced major neurocognitive disorder. Alcoholic dementia can cause problems with cognition, memory, and learning in people who suffer from the condition.

Alcoholic dementia is believed to occur because of the effect of alcohol on brain cells as well as nutritional deficiencies that often result from drinking heavily. Alcoholic dementia is similar to Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s difficult to reverse once symptoms begin.

Signs of alcoholic dementia usually begin with confusion. Other signs can include asking the same question repeatedly or telling the same stories. There may be other signs such as loss of muscle coordination and abnormal movements of the eyes.

Neuropathy

Alcoholic neuropathy is considered a severe condition resulting from excessive drinking. Alcohol abuse causes damage to the nerves.

As a result of this nerve damage, a person may experience odd feelings in their arms and legs, loss of certain bodily functions and a reduction in mobility. It’s estimated that around 65 percent of people in the U.S. with a diagnosed alcohol use disorder have alcoholic neuropathy.

Some of the possible symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy include:

  • Loss of limb movement
  • Muscle weakness in the limbs
  • Numbness
  • Loss of sensation
  • Feelings of pins and needles in the libs
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Constipation
  • Urinary retention
  • Diarrhea
  • Incontinence
  • Problems swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Impaired speech
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Temperature sensitivity

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Signs of An Alcoholic Stroke

People who are heavy drinkers are at a higher risk of having a bleeding stroke. The reason alcoholism is linked to an increased risk of stroke is because excessive alcohol use is linked to many of the contributing risk factors for strokes.

For example, high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight and liver damage are all effects of heavy drinking and also risk factors for strokes.

Some of the signs of a stroke can include:

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body and especially in the face, arm or leg
  • Confusion
  • Problems speaking
  • Problems seeing
  • Dizziness
  • Severe and sudden headache
  • Problems with walking, balance, and coordination

How to Tell an Alcoholic Will Die Soon

The reality of alcoholism is that it’s a dangerous and often deadly disease for people who don’t receive help and professional treatment. Untreated alcoholism is considered a terminal disease.

There are an estimated 88,000 people who die each year due to alcohol-related issues, and alcoholism is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.

There are certain physical signs and symptoms an alcoholic will die soon, once that person has reached end-stage alcoholism. The destruction and devastation that alcoholism causes to a person’s physical health occurs slowly over many years.

During stage four alcoholism, which is the final stage, a person will do anything to keep drinking, and health seriously declines.

5 Signs An Alcoholic Is Dying

Everyone is different and there aren’t the same signs in every alcoholic who is dying, but the following are the most common 5 signs an alcoholic is dying.

  • Alcoholic brain damage is usually a late-stage symptom of excessive drinking. This can include Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Some of the brain-related symptoms of late-stage alcoholism include confusion, loss of mental functionality and activity, severe mental impairment and loss of muscle coordination.
  • Along with general brain damage, sometimes people who are severe alcoholics may develop alcohol-related psychosis, which can include symptoms including paranoia and hallucinations.
  • Liver disease and liver failure are signs that an alcoholic is potentially dying. Physical symptoms of this can include the distended abdomen, because of a build-up of fluid caused by the loss of functionality of the liver.
  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy may occur during the later stage of alcoholism. Heavy, ongoing drinking can cause heart disease, and that’s referred to as alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This occurs as the heart muscle is weakened and thinned over time. This makes it difficult for the heart to properly pump blood to other organs and areas of the body.
  • There is a condition called Barrett’s esophagus which can be caused by alcoholism. In this situation, a person develops precancerous cells in the throat, and it makes it difficult for them to swallow. Sometimes people with this condition can choke, including on vomit, and they’re at greater risk of developing pneumonia and esophageal cancer.

As alcoholism progresses, it can become increasingly scary and devastating, particularly for the loved ones of the person who is struggling.

Treatment is available, even when someone is a long-time alcoholic, however.

Contact Amethyst Recovery, and we can help you learn more about alcoholism and how it’s treated. There is a chance to reverse the damage and help yourself or your loved one live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Sources:

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