Alcohol-related disorders

A wide variety of physical and mental disorders associated with heavy, prolonged consumption of alcohol. High alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, tongue, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), and oesophagus, especially if combined with smoking. Incidence of liver cancer, as well as the liver diseases alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis, is higher among alcoholics. High alcohol consumption increases the risk of cardiomyopathy, hypertension, and stroke. Alcohol irritates the digestive tract and may cause gastritis. Heavy drinking in pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcoholics are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and to develop dementia. Many alcoholics have a poor diet and are prone to diseases caused by nutritional deficiency, particularly of thiamine (see vitamin B complex). Severe thiamine deficiency, called beriberi, disturbs nerve function, causing cramps, numbness, and weakness in the legs and hands. Its effects on the brain can cause confusion, disturbances of speech and gait, and eventual coma (see Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome). Severe thiamine deficiency can also cause heart failure. A prolonged high level of alcohol in the blood and tissues can disturb body chemistry, resulting in hypoglycaemia (reduced glucose in the blood) and hyperlipidaemia (increased fat in the blood). These may damage the heart, liver, blood vessels, and brain; irreversible damage may cause premature death.


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