While most people may not think twice about consuming alcohol, the truth is alcohol can affect your body in many ways. With alcohol being widely accepted in society, it is important to remember that alcohol can cause adverse effects to your organs if used in excess. But which organs are most affected by alcohol?
The Organs Most Impacted by Alcohol
Not all organs are affected by alcohol equally. While some organs can be damaged by alcohol completely, others are more resilient to the effects. By understanding which organs are most affected by alcohol, you can make better choices regarding drinking and identify any early signs of damage. Some of the top organs affected by alcohol include:
You may have heard that red wine is good for your heart and can promote cardiovascular health. This is partially true – a moderate intake of red wine can have some benefits due to its antioxidant properties. However, there are other, healthier ways to consume antioxidants that do not involve alcohol.
Overall, heavy drinking is bad for the heart and can increase your risk of heart-related conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
Remember, if you do choose to drink, do so in moderation. Your heart will thank you later!
Between slowed reaction times, impaired judgment, and slurred speech, alcohol can have a significant impact on your brain. This is because when you drink, alcohol enters your bloodstream and travels to your brain. Moderate drinkers can expect these impairments to last up to 12 hours after their last drink.
On the other hand, heavy drinkers can suffer from long-term brain damage due to alcohol abuse. This damage can manifest in the form of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, a condition that leads to permanent brain damage, memory loss, and problems with vision and balance.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
Children whose mothers drink during pregnancy are also at risk of developing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which can cause a range of physical and mental disabilities.
FASD can lead to many brain-related problems such as:
- Poor memory
- Speech delays
- Poor coordination
- Intellectual disabilities
The liver is one of the organs most affected by alcohol. When you drink, alcohol is broken down in the liver. The liver can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol, so any excess alcohol is stored in the liver. This can lead to several problems, including:
Fatty Liver Disease
A majority of heavy drinkers will develop some degree of fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is a condition in which the liver has an excess build-up of fat. While symptoms may not be present in the early stages, fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Luckily, fatty liver disease may be reversible if you stop drinking.
10% to 20% of those who drink heavily will develop liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver is so scarred that it can no longer function due to scar tissue replacing the healthy liver cells. Cirrhosis is irreversible and can cause fatal liver failure and liver cancer if left untreated.
Alcoholic hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the liver and damage to the liver cells. Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:
- Abdominal pain
Alcoholic hepatitis can vary in its severity, but in some cases, it can lead to liver failure and be life-threatening if drinking fails to cease.
The pancreas is a small but essential organ that sits behind the stomach. The pancreas plays a key role in digestion and helps to break down food.
Alcohol can also affect the pancreas. When you drink, alcohol can damage the pancreas and lead to pancreatitis, a condition that may cause a fatal inflammation of the pancreas. Furthermore, excessive alcohol consumption may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer. The prognosis of pancreatic cancer is often very poor, with a 5 to 10 percent five-year survival rate.
The kidneys are a pair of organs located on either side of the spine, just below your rib cage. The kidneys help to filter waste and extra water out of your blood and create urine. Alcohol can have a significant impact on the kidneys. Heavy drinking may cause the kidneys to become inflamed and lead to kidney disease.
Other conditions that may develop as a result of alcohol use include:
- Kidney stones
- Urinary tract infections
- Interstitial nephritis – a condition in which the kidneys become inflamed and are unable to function properly.
When drinking alcohol, your kidneys are working overtime to try and filter the alcohol and toxins out of your system. Alcohol consumption may also cause dehydration, leading to kidney stones and urinary tract infections. So if you are drinking alcohol, be sure to drink plenty of water to help your body stay hydrated and your kidneys remain healthy.
Contact Summit Medical Clinic
As you can see, alcohol can significantly impact your body and organs. Thankfully, many resources and treatment options are available to help you treat alcohol-related conditions.
Summit Medical Clinic provides outstanding primary care services along with advanced nephrology and kidney care. If you are experiencing kidney issues or are concerned you may be at risk due to alcohol consumption, contact Summit Medical Clinic today.