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What are the physical signs of alcoholism?

When someone loses control over their drinking, despite it causing potential harm, this can be classed as alcoholism.

As a person becomes dependent, the acquiring and consuming of alcohol becomes their number one priority, to which every other responsibility comes second. This often leads to the person developing a tolerance to alcohol, meaning that they need increasing amounts to feel its effects. It also causes physical dependency where withdrawal symptoms are experienced if the person tries to cut down or stop drinking.

If you are concerned about your own drinking or that of someone you care about, we have outlined the physical signs of alcoholism that a person may display as well as the support Priory can offer.

Alcoholism: the physical warning signs

There are numerous signs of alcoholism, and they can differ from person-to-person. We have listed some of the most common physical symptoms below:

  • Dishevelled appearance - personal hygiene and grooming may start to take less of a priority. A person may also have poor skin and tired eyes as a result of dehydration and lack of sleep, which are often associated with heavy alcohol use.  They may smell of alcohol from the previous night or have had an ‘eye opener’ to keep physical withdrawal symptoms at bay in the morning.
  • Either gaining or losing weight - alcoholism can have a big impact on a person’s appetite. They may lose feelings of hunger or no longer have a desire for food, as their focus shifts to alcohol. Alternatively, they may crave high-fat foods as alcohol produces the hunger-increasing hormone gelanin.
  • Redness in the face, especially the nose and cheeks - blood vessels can enlarge, causing redness in the face.  In the long term, these vessels can over-dilate, leading to spider veins on the skin.
  • Having repeated infections and skin sores (abscesses) - when alcohol impairs the immune system, this can leave a person at greater risk of infections. As alcohol dries the skin - our natural defence against pathogens - this can also lead to repeated skin infections.
  • Having a sore or upset stomach - people with alcoholism can develop erosive gastritis, where the stomach lining wears away. This can cause the stomach to bleed or develop ulcers.
  • Feel numbness and tingling in feet or hands
  • Unsteady on their feet - the part of the brain that controls coordination and balance can deteriorate under the influence of alcohol. This increases the risk of falls and accidents occurring even when sober.
  • Bruises and injuries - unexplained bruises and scrapes may be observed more frequently and alcoholics can have reduced platelet counts and other clotting factors, making them more likely to bruise.  More seriously, this reduced clotting leads to an increased risk of stroke.
  • Liver problems like cirrhosis - alcoholism can lead to liver problems including fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis. Fatty liver is caused by fat building up in liver cells. This can develop into alcohol hepatitis, which is the inflammation of the liver. Alcohol hepatitis can lead to liver failure and can also gradually damage the organ and lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is when normal liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue, which causes the liver to lose its ability to function well.
  • A yellow skin tone - jaundice can be a physical sign of liver problems, where the skin takes on a yellowish brown tone as it fails to process certain particles in the body.
  • Withdrawal symptoms - if alcohol is withheld, a person may display the physical signs of alcohol withdrawal which can include tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting, unsteadiness and even seizures.

Treatment for alcoholism

If you are worried about the impact that alcohol is having on your life or the life of someone you care about, it is time to seek help. 

Priory offers the support needed for someone looking to start their journey towards an alcohol free life. Our treatments are tailored to the individual, where every person receives the care they need to recover effectively. Whether detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation or outpatient therapy is required, we will make sure a person has the helping hand that they need.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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