The 9 Most Dangerous Complications of Alcoholism

by | Published on Feb 19, 2021 | Alcohol Addiction | 0 comments

The 9 Most Dangerous Complications of Alcoholism

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Alcohol might be a legal drug, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. While temporary effects of intoxication might seem harmless, rest assured alcohol is wreaking internal havoc on your heart, liver, entire digestive system, ability to make decisions, and even your mood. Since alcohol affects virtually every part of your body, there are a number of health complications that can occur. These are several of the most dangerous complications of alcoholism, many of which can be fatal.

(Some of) The Most Dangerous Complications of Alcoholism

A chronic drinking habit causes harrowing health consequences that, if not directly fatal themselves, can significantly shorten your lifespan. Drinking is not just an isolated risk to your liver and has the potential to cripple the delicate balance of your organ’s functioning.  

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Typically preceded by a condition known as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Considered as the second stage of chronic liver failure, this condition can severely impair liver function as well as the liver’s ability to repair itself. Since this organ is responsible for processing nearly 90% of all alcohol (and other toxins) that enter the body, this can be particularly deadly for an alcoholic. Alcoholic hepatitis can be reversed – some of the time. If not, this condition can lead to complete liver or kidney failure.

Cirrhosis

The third and final stage of liver failure, cirrhosis is a type of scarring (fibrosis) of the liver that prevents this organ from functioning as needed as well as being able to repair itself. This condition is not reversible and is considered a terminal disease. Aside from being an indicator of impending liver failure, cirrhosis can also lead to a number of uncomfortable and potentially fatal conditions of its own include difficulty fighting infections, high blood pressure, internal bleeding, and bone disease.

Kidney Failure

The liver gets the most of the spotlight when talking about the side effects of alcoholism, but the kidneys are another toxin-filtering organ that takes a beating from a chronic drinking habit. These bean-shaped organs remove water-soluble toxins from the blood and excrete them as urine.They play a lead in the regulation of blood cell production and blood pressure. Kidney failure renders these organs incapable of filtering waste which can lead to your blood’s chemical makeup becoming toxic. 

Ulcers

Ulcers are typically caused by bacteria that have broken down the stomach lining, rendering it vulnerable to powerful digestive acids. This painful condition can deteriorate quickly, causing complications with the potential to be deadly. Complications include vomiting of blood (internal bleeding), tearing of the stomach lining (perforation) which can result in sepsis, or obstruction of your digestive system (gastric outlet obstruction).

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, a gland near the small intestine responsible for the secreting digestive juices and insulin. This inflammation occurs when those digestive enzymes begin digesting the pancreas itself. In most cases, this condition is not life-threatening (although it can have unpleasant side effects such as oily stools). However, if untreated this can lead to a number of complications such as an increased risk of infection or diabetes, along with major organ failure.

Heart Disease

Heavy drinking causes a number of undesirable effects on the cardiovascular system as a whole. From high blood pressure to constriction of blood vessels, types of heart conditions caused by alcohol include angina (a lack of oxygen to the heart), stroke, and increased risk of all-out heart failure. 

Heart Failure

Heart failure is when your heart is either too weak or damaged to pump blood efficiently. This inability to get enough blood to the various parts of the body poses immense danger to organs such as the kidney and liver and contribute to their failure as well. Heart failure is responsible for an estimated 282,000 deaths each year with a 50% mortality rate.

Diabetes

This diagnosis means your blood glucose or blood sugar levels are too high. This is either a result of a deficiency in insulin production or your body being unable to properly use the insult it produces. Diabetes can result in damage to your kidneys, pancreas, digestive system, nerves, and even your eyes. It also significantly increases the risk of dangerous heart failure such as a stroke.

Cancer (Several Types)

Acetaldehyde, the toxic byproduct of when alcohol is broken down, can damage DNA. As the building blocks of every cell in our body, the ramifications are huge. Not only does it damage cells, but it can also impair the cell’s ability to repair itself. This increases the likelihood of potential mutation as well as the likelihood that cell growth can get out of control. The result of which can be cancerous tumors that occur in the mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), esophagus, breast, liver, colon, or rectum.

The body is a finely tuned machine whose functions are closely interconnected with one another. When alcohol consumption reaches dangerous levels, the result is a domino effect of harmful side effects where one type of impairment leads to another. Even if you feel “fine”, you put yourself at further risk of irreversible damage. Getting treated for your alcohol addiction can quite literally save your life, get started at an alcohol treatment center that can help you manage detox and cravings.

Written by: Tyler Fordham

Written by: Tyler Fordham

Tyler is a writer with dual degrees from the University of South Florida. Having grown up with an alcoholic father, she understands both the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that addiction can affect the family unit. This Miami native has become a champion of mental health and an active believer in the power of positive thinking. When she isn't at the beach, Tyler enjoys running, jigsaw puzzles, and snuggling with her cat, Poof.

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