Long Term Effects of Alcoholism


Alcohol is an irritant and a toxin. Over time, it shows itself both externally and internally. This link is to a more detailed medical review.

In general, the chronic alcoholic will have tremors and be irritable or nervous -- these symptoms are partly due to withdrawal (which comes quickly in long-term abusers) and partly due to sleep disturbances. Alcohol interferes with deep and restful sleep.

Other long term effects of alcoholism may be:

  • Jaundice-- a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes from liver damage.
  • Rosacea-- A redness of the skin from vitamin B deficiency or itching/dry skin from bad hygiene.
  • Drinker's Nose-- The proper term for this is rhinophyma, and it is a swelling of the lower nose from blocked sweat glands. The nose will look bulbous and sometimes inflamed.
  • Finger Clubbing -- this is from poor circulation to the extremities (from heart damage). The finger and toe nails may also be turned downward.

As the disease progresses, alcoholism leads to internal organ damage that begins to dominate, and the alcoholic will get cirrhosis of the liver and a chronically inflamed pancreas. The damage to the pancreas causes diabetes with pain that radiates to the back. Along with gastrointestinal damage, these lead to nausea and vomiting with regular diarrhea.

Brain damage

Alcoholism leads to brain damage that can cause blackouts and memory loss dominating. If alcohol is withdrawn, seizures may result. Besides the central nervous system damage, smaller, peripheral nerves are usually affected because of vitamin deficiencies. This leads to tingling and numbness in the extremities, loss of balance and coordination may also be seen.

Muscles are affected with chronic drinking. Atrophy and weakness are common. Kidney damage leads to increased urine flow and electrolyte imbalances.

The final long term effects of alcoholism (that cause death) may be from liver damage or heart and circulatory problems leading to pneumonia (water collected in the lungs). Any failure of the liver, heart or kidneys can be fatal.

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