National Lung Cancer Awareness Month– Part 2: Understanding alcoholic lung disease

Posted on November 24th, 2016 in Addiction, alcohol, Alcohol Abuse, cancer

National Lung Cancer Awareness Month– Part 2: Understanding alcoholic lung disease

Everyone knows about alcoholic liver disease, but alcoholic lung disease, though prevalent, is getting attention only in the recent years. It is a well-known fact that alcohol consumption hurts the liver, but recent studies have revealed that it harms the lungs as well.

In the series, “National Lung Cancer Awareness Month,” we’ve already talked about alcohol’s link with lung cancer. In this article, we will limit our discussion to alcoholic lung disease. The month of November being the “National Lung Cancer Awareness Month,” it is worthwhile to learn about the ill effects of alcohol on the lungs. Alcoholic lung cancer can be as damaging as cirrhosis and therefore must be treated seriously.

Effect of alcohol on the lungs

Alcohol can negatively impact the lungs in several ways. Here are some negative effects of alcohol consumption on the lungs:

  1. The lung tissues are important for the proper functioning of the lungs and if they get damaged, the lungs may malfunction. Alcohol damages the lung tissues and affects the productivity of the lungs.
  2. There are some proteins that play a key role in the functioning of the lungs. These are needed to help fluids stay out of the lungs. Alcohol consumption can disrupt this process. As a result, these proteins are unable to perform their duties resulting in fluid retention inside the lungs.
  3. The lungs have their own immune defense mechanism. It helps the lungs fight external threats or infections. Alcohol may weaken this immune system, leaving the lungs vulnerable to the external threats.
  4. There is an antioxidant named glutathione that protects the lungs by minimizing lung cell deaths. Alcohol diminishes the production, or availability, of glutathione. Therefore, the cell death process increases exponentially harming the lungs.
  5. As we have discussed in the first article, alcohol increases the risk of lung cancer too. Alcoholic lung disease may be a precursor to lung cancer.
  6. Gag reflexes and cilia functions are important for the lungs. They help external organisms stay out of the organ. Alcohol disturbs the gag reflexes and cilia functions, making it easier for the external organisms to attack and infect the lungs.
  7. Alcohol consumption also lowers the nitric oxide levels, a gas that is produced naturally, which increases bacterial infections in the lungs. It has been found that heavy drinkers have lower nitric oxide levels.

Complications associated with alcoholic lung disease

Alcoholic lung disease may lead to the following serious complications:

  1. Pneumonia: Pneumonia sets in due to infection of the lungs. It causes inflammation of the lung’s air sacs (the alveoli). The alveoli then fill up with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe. Although the condition itself is not very serious, flu viruses can make it severe and deadly. Once respiratory viruses come in contact with flu viruses, acute pneumonia may set in and damage the lungs badly.
  2. ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome): ARDS is a fatal disease. Patients with ARDS find it tough to breathe and hence fall short of oxygen. ARDS is a medical emergency because it acts fast and can kill immediately. People having an alcoholic lung disease are more at risk of contracting ARDS, they are twice as likely to do so as compared to those who do not consume alcohol.
  3. If people have an existing lung problem, it may worsen due to the alcoholic lung disease. Alcohol consumption while suffering from a lung problem can be severely damaging to the lungs. It can become so bad as to become untreatable.

Time to curb one’s drinking habits

Prevention is better than cure more so in the case of alcoholic lung disease. To avoid lung complications, it is best to be cautious and refrain from chronic alcohol consumption.

If you are, or you know, an alcoholic, it is time to leave the life of drinking behind. There are many well-known alcohol addiction treatment centers in Arizona. To know more about alcohol addiction treatment in Arizona, chat online with the Arizona Alcohol Addiction Helpline counselors or dial our 24/7 alcohol addiction helpline number at 866-671-1510.

To read the other articles in the series, “National Lung Cancer Awareness Month”:

Part 1: Heavy alcohol consumption can cause lung cancer

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