A recent survey shows that at least 14.1 million people in the USA suffer from alcohol use disorder. That means they drink more than seven glasses of alcohol per week which is the WHO definition of alcohol abuse.
So, if you have suspicions about your loved one’s relationship with alcohol, you’re probably right.
Alcoholism isn’t a physical condition, but it’s considered a disease and does have physical symptoms. So, if you’re concerned about someone’s drinking habits, you could notice one or more physical signs of alcohol abuse.
Here’s how to tell if someone is abusing alcohol just by looking at them.
Cosmetic Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Some of the first physical signs of alcoholism aren’t health-related. You might notice that your loved one always smells faintly of alcoholism and that they have an unkempt appearance.
Alcohol addiction can take over your life to the degree that you lose interest in anything else. The person might lose interest in their personal appearance, skipping showers, and wearing unmatched, ill-fitting clothes.
If you’ve noticed that your friend doesn’t care about keeping themselves or their environment clean anymore, it’s a sure sign that their sense of self-worth’s declining thanks to alcohol misuse.
Improved self-esteem is only one of the rewards people discover when they start to live clean and sober.
People who have an unhealthy fascination with alcohol often skip meals in favor of drinking, but that’s not the only reason they lose weight.
The human body metabolizes alcohol differently from how it digests food. Alcohol goes straight to the small intestine via the stomach.
Due to this, it skips part of the digestive process, and can thus damage the intestinal tract. This means the body has a hard time absorbing and using nutrients from food.
In this way, excessive alcohol intake can lead to protein and vitamin deficiencies. It also irritates the digestive tract, causing nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. This causes further nutritional deficiencies.
Broken Capillaries on the Nose and Face
When you drink a glass of wine or a cocktail, you’ll notice that your face becomes flushed. That’s because alcohol causes more blood to flow through the vessels on your face.
When you drink constantly for months on end, your blood vessels become stretched due to this constant state of expansion and they stay that way. Since the blood vessels on your face are close to the surface of the skin, they soon become visible.
These physical signs of alcoholism aren’t as reversible as many of the others. The brain and liver can recover if the treatment’s started early, but broken capillaries are often for life.
Dry Skin and Brittle Nails
Apart from broken capillaries, alcohol can cause dull, grey, lifeless skin or allergic outbreaks.
Lack of nutrients soon causes your body to divert the few resources it has to vital internal organs. That means the skin and nails suffer. The immune system goes into decline, making the skin an easy target for allergies and flare-ups.
Brittle, pale, peeling nails are a sign of a vitamin deficiency and one of the first indicators that the body’s saturated with alcohol. The nails aren’t a vital resource, so they’re last in line when your body allocates resources.
A Yellow Complexion
Yellowing eyes and skin are one of the advanced physical effects of alcohol, and a symptom of liver damage. The liver’s in charge of removing toxins from the body, and it’s not designed for the constant onslaught of alcohol.
In plain speak, excessive alcohol consumption wears the liver out, leading to cirrhosis, cancer, and ultimately liver failure.
Thankfully, this resilient organism can recover but it needs a balanced, toxin-free diet to accomplish this.
A yellow-orange substance in the blood, called bilirubin, can cause skin and eyes to yellow. This substance occurs in the red blood cells and when those cells die, the liver usually gets rid of bilirubin naturally.
If the liver stops functioning properly, bilirubin builds up the blood vessels to such a degree that it becomes visible through the skin.
Alcohol and Cancer
Excessive alcohol use causes chemical changes in our bodies that make us susceptible to cancer. It’s directly related to about 5% of cancer-related deaths worldwide.
More than three drinks a week can contribute to cancer of the following organs:
- Colon and rectum
- Mouth and throat
Even moderate alcohol use can increase your risk of contracting cancer.
Weakened Immune System
Poor nutrition, failing organs, irresponsible behavior, and poor hygiene all contribute to ill-health. That makes people with alcohol use disorder far more prone to a host of health issues. The most common ones are:
- Viral infections
- Nutritionally-related disorders
Excess alcohol use wreaks havoc with the delicate inner workings of the brain and can eventually result in a severe, irreversible type of dementia called ‘wet brain syndrome’.
Long before this stage, you might notice that your friend often seems confused and irrational, or experiences memory loss. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that causes chronic depression and anxiety too.
What to Do if you Notice Any Physical Signs of Alcohol Abuse
The human body is very resilient. So, by the time you pick up on physical signs of alcohol abuse, it means that the problem’s already at an advanced stage.
There’s only one way to stop the ravages of alcohol addiction and that’s to stop drinking completely. If you’re worried about your loved one’s health, you need to have a conversation about them regarding their alcohol use.
Inpatient and outpatient rehab can help them get on the road to recovery.
You’ll find more resources about addiction on our blog. Head to our wellness section to get the details.
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