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About Alcohol

Alcohol is associated with a number of medical conditions.  It affects many parts of the body.

The liver:

Alcohol can cause the liver to become inflamed.  If this is sustained scarring of the liver, or cirrhosis, may occur.  Eventually the liver is unable to function properly and liver failure may develop.  Liver failure leads to complications such as confusion, internal bleeding, fluid accumulation and death.

The nervous system:

Long-term alcohol use causes irreversible damage to nerve endings.  This condition, called neuropathy, can cause painful numbness of the skin particularly of the feet and hands.

Alcohol can also damage the brain causing a form of dementia resulting in memory loss.

It may also cause depression and contribute to other mental health problems.

Alcohol is a risk factor for stroke

The blood and immune system:

Alcohol has a toxic effect on the bone marrow, which is responsible for producing blood cells.  This can cause anaemia and increase the risk of infections such as pneumonia.

The heart:

Alcohol can cause progressive damage to the heart.  This affects its ability to pump blood properly resulting in heart failure.  This leads to symptoms such as breathlessness and swelling of the legs and ankles.

The gastro-intestinal system

Alcohol damages the lining of the stomach and cause stomach ulceration, which may result in internal bleeding.  It can also cause damage to the pancreas which can be life threatening and causes severe pain.   Alcohol often causes chronic diarrhoea and exacerbates heartburn.

Alcohol and sexual health:

Alcohol intoxication increases the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.  It also can reduce libido and cause the development of breast tissue in men.

Alcohol and cancer:

Alcohol is a risk factor for a number of cancers including breast and bowel cancer.  People with liver cirrhosis are also at risk of liver cancer.

Alcohol and pregnancy:

Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol syndrome.  This is a condition that causes physical abnormalities, stunted growth and learning difficulties.