Which Condition Is Often a Result of Alcohol Addiction?

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Heavy drinking causes multiple health issues as alcohol is a known toxin. When someone struggles with alcohol use disorder, their chances of developing an alcohol-related disease increases dramatically.

Aside from acute alcohol intoxication, more than 30 conditions are proven to be related to alcohol addiction. These include alcohol-induced atrial arrhythmia, alcohol-induced cardiomyopathy, alcoholic liver disease, alcohol-related cerebellar degeneration, and vitamin B1 deficiency.

Let’s take a look at some of these conditions, their symptoms, and possible treatment options.

Alcohol-Induced Atrial Arrhythmia

Alcohol-induced atrial arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm due to binge drinking. It’s also called the Holiday Heart Syndrome because of its relation to specific times of the year when too much alcohol consumption is more common.

A single drink per day increases the risk of this condition in adults above 55 years who have pre-existing heart disease. Each extra daily drink increases the chance by 8%.

The good news is that most patients don’t experience any symptoms except an irregular pulse. If the heart rate gets too high, people get:

  • Palpitations: feeling your heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Syncope: passing out

Without treatment, atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots to develop inside the heart. Clots can travel towards the brain, causing strokes. Or they can travel down the legs, leading to peripheral vascular disease.

Alcohol-induced atrial fibrillation is treated using drugs that slow the heart rate, such as metoprolol. Some patients might need electrical cardioversion; an electric shock to the chest, which restores normal heart rhythm.

Alcohol-Induced Cardiomyopathy

Up to half of all cardiomyopathy patients have been reported to consume alcohol in large quantities. In alcohol-induced cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes weak and unable to pump blood due to long-term heavy alcohol consumption.

As a result, patients experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath on lying down
  • Episodes of breathlessness during sleep
  • Cool and swollen feet

Doctors diagnose the condition based on a history of alcohol use and an echocardiogram (a type of heart scan). The scan shows widened heart chambers that are unable to contract properly.

The treatment includes total abstinence from alcoholic beverages (or reduced intake if that’s not possible). Patients also get a range of heart failure drugs, depending on their symptoms. Examples include loop diuretics, like furosemide, beta-blockers, like bisoprolol, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, like lisinopril.

The heart can recover fully if patients quit alcohol completely.

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Liver damage due to alcohol consumption is a common occurrence because the liver handles the blood detoxification process. Alcohol is the second most common cause of end-stage liver disease in the United States, and ALD occurs in 10-20% of heavy drinkers.

There are three stages of ALD:

  • Alcoholic fatty liver: alcohol leads to fat deposition in the liver but there are no symptoms at this stage. It’s also completely reversible if you stop drinking.
  • Alcoholic hepatitis: symptoms include fever, yellowing of skin, nausea, reduced appetite, and fatigue. This stage is reversible if mild.
  • Alcohol-related cirrhosis: irreversible end-stage liver disease where normal liver tissue is replaced by non-functional scar tissue. Symptoms include abdominal swelling, an increased tendency to bleed, drowsiness, and weight loss.

The treatment of ALD includes completely quitting alcohol and starting steroid therapy in some cases. If someone develops cirrhosis, the only curative treatment is a liver transplant.

Alcohol-Related Cerebellar Degeneration

The cerebellum is the brain’s region responsible for coordinating movements and the vermis is its central part.

Alcohol-related cerebellar degeneration occurs when cells in the cerebellar vermis start dying because of chronic alcohol consumption.

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • An unsteady, staggering gait
  • Inability to sit upright or stand without support
  • Jerky eye movements

The diagnosis is made by looking at the brain using a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which shows a shrunken cerebellum.

No cure can reverse alcohol-related cerebellar degeneration. The treatment involves stopping alcohol and going to physiotherapy to regain muscle function.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by vitamin B1 deficiency, the most common cause of which is long-term alcohol abuse.

There are two stages of this syndrome—Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome.

Wernicke encephalopathy is the initial stage that’s reversible by intravenous vitamin B1. Its symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Jerky eye movements
  • Double vision
  • A wide, small-step gait

If these symptoms are not treated, the condition turns into the irreversible Korsakoff syndrome, where patients develop:

  • Memory loss
  • Confabulations: lies made up to fill memory lapses
  • Personality changes like apathy or indifference

Korsakoff syndrome is treated by vitamin B1 supplementation to prevent it from worsening in addition to psychiatric therapy and memory-strengthening exercises. Of course, alcohol abstinence is an important part of the treatment.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

One to five percent of American children in the first-grade have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. They’re the most common cause of intellectual disability in the US and occur due to a mother drinking alcohol while pregnant.

Symptoms depend on the severity of damage from alcohol and include:

  • Short height
  • Seizures
  • A thin upper lip
  • Down-slanting eyes
  • An increased gap between the eyes
  • Abnormally small brain and head size
  • Heart defects like atrial septal disorder
  • Joint contractures, where the joints are naturally stiff and contracted

The only way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome is to avoid alcohol during pregnancy.

Acute Gouty Arthritis

Gout refers to joint inflammation due to uric acid deposition. Excessive alcohol consumption can double the risk of gout, and beer has the highest chance of triggering an attack.

A typical gout attack involves the big toe, which becomes warm, red, and painful. The pain is severe enough to wake patients up at night and some people also develop a fever.

The diagnosis is made by using a needle to draw joint fluid and analyzing it under the microscope, which shows uric acid crystals.

Treatment involves limiting alcohol consumption, rest, icing the involved joint, and medications like steroids, colchicine, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Chronic Alcohol-Induced Myopathy

This condition involves muscle weakness that develops over weeks to months in people with regular excessive alcohol use. It usually affects the proximal muscles, such as the upper arms, thighs, and trunk. Some patients also experience muscle pain, twitching, or muscle shrinking.

The treatment involves total abstinence from alcohol—symptoms resolve within 2-12 months after patients stop drinking.

Prevent Alcohol-Related Conditions With Curednation

Getting help for alcohol addiction is a major aspect of treating alcohol-related health conditions before they progress too far.

Substance abuse treatment services provided by Curednation can help you or your loved ones avoid the long-term physical and mental health consequences of addiction. Book an appointment today and take the first step in your recovery journey.

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