Alcoholic liver disease is well-documented, but in recent years there has been growing concern about alcoholic lung disease. This condition may be as serious a threat to the mortality of alcoholics as cirrhosis. If people smoke cigarettes and abuse alcohol, they are in real danger of developing life threatening respiratory problems.
These are some of the ways that alcohol abuse can inflict negative effects on the lungs:
* It interferes with the normal functioning of the lung tissue so that it is more susceptible to injury.
* It causes disruption among certain proteins that are required to keep fluid out of the lung.
* It lowers the immune defenses in the lung
* It reduces levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that is needed to protect the lungs. When levels of this antioxidant are low, there is a much higher chance of cell death in the lungs.
* It can increase the risk that people will develop lung cancer.
* It may impair gag reflex and cilia function, which makes it easier for infections to get into the lung.
If people have lungs that have been damaged because of alcohol abuse it can make them more susceptible to the following serious complications:
* Pneumonia occurs due to an infection in the lungs. Those who have alcoholic lung disease are believed to be more susceptible to this type of infection.
* Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is considered a medical emergency because it can so easily lead to death. The individual who develops ARDS will have trouble breathing, and this means they will not be able to get enough oxygen into their blood stream. People who have developed alcoholic lung disease are more at risk of developing ARDS, up to twice the likelihood of those who do not abuse alcohol.
* If the individual has any type of lung problem already, then this will be complicated by alcoholic lung. This means that they are more likely to suffer serious complications because of this problem.
As well as damaging the lungs there are also lots of other dangers associated with alcohol abuse including:
* Alcoholic liver disease
* Mental health problems such as depression
* Likelihood of committing suicide
* Death from alcohol poisoning if the amount of this substance in their blood stream becomes too high
* Digestive problems
* Heart damage
* Nutritional deficiencies, which in turn cause alcoholic dementia and other problems
* Likelihood of becoming victim of a violent crime
* Suffering accidents injuries as a result of inebriation
* Increased risk of developing diabetes
* Developing alcoholism, which can completely destroy everything good in life and become a source of misery for friends and family
* Alcohol abuse can cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to serious complications.
If people wish to avoid alcoholic lung disease there are things that they can do:
* Keep to the recommended levels for safe consumption of alcohol, one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Those who are under 21 or pregnant should avoid alcohol completely. If people are older than 65 years of age, they should stick to one drink per day. For the purpose of safe alcohol consumption a drink is considered to be a standard beer, glass of wine, or standard shot of spirits.
* If people have problems controlling their intake of alcohol they should stop drinking altogether.
* Those individuals who already have any type of lung problem should be particularly careful around alcohol.
* Those people who smoke cigarettes should give these up.
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