Alcoholism is a devastating illness in more ways than one. Those who suffer from addiction to alcohol may find that their relationships and finances suffer greatly. In some cases, relationships can be damaged beyond repair. As well as the damage it can do to these areas of one’s life, it may also be the case that mental and physical health is affected, as well.

Alcohol is a substance that affects almost every cell in the body and those who have been abusing it for a long time are in danger of causing significant damage to their internal organs. Many alcoholics will suffer from conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disease. Alcohol has been found to be directly linked to seven different types of cancer, and it can also have a devastating effect on the brain, causing conditions like depression, anxiety disorder, and dementia.

The sooner a person quits alcohol and learns how to live a clean and healthy sober life, the better his or her chances are of a recovery. However, some individuals will end up suffering lasting physical damage due to years of alcohol abuse.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Health

While most of the physical symptoms experienced during early recovery can subside over time, there are some effects of alcohol addiction that may never heal. Damage to organs like the liver is common among alcoholics, and while most liver damage can be reversed, sometimes this organ continues to decline after a person quits drinking. This is usually due to conditions such as viral hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Viral Hepatitis

The liver can be affected by a variety of viral infections, including Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Acute hepatitis is a short-term infection that causes symptoms that can include vomiting, fever, nausea, body aches and a swollen liver. This condition tends to go away within a few days to a couple of weeks, and some people will not experience any symptoms at all.

However, chronic hepatitis is more of a problem, and it is caused by the B, C, and D strains of the virus. This condition typically lasts for months, but some people can be affected for their entire lifetime. The most serious form of viral hepatitis is Hepatitis C, although all three strains can lead to conditions like liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and liver failure.

The problem with Hepatitis C is that it can be transmitted from person to person, so it is generally a concern among drug users who share needles. Nevertheless, this virus can also be spread through sexual contact, so is also a worry for alcoholics.

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis of the liver is a common condition among long-term abusers of alcohol. It typically begins with a condition known as fatty liver, which affects almost everyone who drinks alcohol to excess. Fatty liver can be reversed by abstaining from alcohol, but cirrhosis of the liver is end-stage and can be fatal. The trouble with cirrhosis is that leads to the death of around ten per cent of those affected, and without any warning signs.

Women tend to suffer from cirrhosis of the liver more quickly than men do, even when they have consumed less alcohol. This is due to their smaller size and the fact that their body metabolises alcohol differently. Untreated cirrhosis of the liver can lead to liver cancer and liver failure. Unfortunately, the livers of some individuals with this condition cannot be saved, and it then becomes necessary for a liver transplant. Nonetheless, this will only be considered if the patient is clean and sober.