Impact Of Alcohol Abuse On Seniors
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Many people believe that due to peer pressure many teenagers end up abusing alcohol. However, researchers are now finding that even seniors may end up abusing alcohol. In fact, the impact of alcohol abuse on seniors can be quite serious, if immediate measures are not taken. Alcohol can damage all the important organs in the body and the seniors may not have the immunity to fight ailments and other stressors. Furthermore, due to alcohol abuse, the seniors may end up falling and hurting themselves while they are intoxicated.
Seniors are at risk of falls even when they do not consume alcohol. This is because their body weakens with age and the muscles lose their ability to offer support. And, when a senior drinks alcohol, it can affect the person's balance as well as judgment. Furthermore, alcohol works as a diuretic and can result in orthostasis. Seniors, who are habitual abusers of alcohol, may suffer from myopathy. In addition, the senior may suffer from reduced sensory input and also from peripheral neuropathy. Alcohol abuse in seniors may also end up damaging the cerebellum and this damage causes the swaying gait that many alcohol abusers have. Furthermore, seniors can also get osteoporosis and when this is combined with the harmful effects that alcohol has on their balance and gait, these seniors are more prone to falls and thereby sustaining fracture of the hip.
Seniors who habitually abuse alcohol an also have impaired functioning of the brain. This results in syndromes, which are often not noticed due to other diseases that result in cognitive problems in the elderly. Some of the syndromes that seniors may have due to alcohol abuse include delirium, being in a state of confusion, or suffering from Wernicke's encephalopathy. The encephalopathy occurs due to deficiency of thiamine and causes ataxia, extreme confusion and abnormal movements of the eyes. Korsakoff's syndrome is another possibility when seniors abuse alcohol. This causes confusion and problems with memory. However, it is alcohol related dementia that is more commonly seen in seniors and along with this, the senior may also end up with extreme atrophy of the cerebrum. Such a senior may notice an improvement in their delirium if they are treated for alcohol abuse, but the problems with judgment and memory often remain and become permanent.
It has also been seen that many seniors who abuse alcohol often have to be rushed to the hospital with gastro-intestinal bleeding or problems. If the senior has a high count of liver enzymes, it could be an indication that the person is suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, fatty liver disease or hepatitis brought on due to alcoholism. Nearly half of the seniors diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver die within a year of the diagnosis.
Alcohol abuse among seniors may also affect other health problems that the person may be having. For instance, the alcohol may worsen elevated blood pressure and if the person drinks excessively, he or she may end up getting a stroke. While seniors may get cardiomyopathy due to alcohol abuse, it has been seen that most seniors succumb to ischemic heart disease rather than heart disease caused due to alcoholism.
Seniors who abuse alcohol have poor immunity and this puts them at a higher chance of getting infections. When a senior consumes excessive alcohol, he or she is prone to aspiration pneumonia, which develops due to vomiting and reduced consciousness. Also, the seniors may end up getting tuberculosis, wherein the bacterium reactivates.
Certain cancers can also get triggered due to alcoholism, such as cancers of the esophagus, nek and head. Elderly alcoholics diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver are at a higher risk of getting cancer of the liver. Furthermore, senior alcoholics are prone to nutritional deficiencies, predominantly of thiamine and folate. This occurs as the person reduces food intake in order to drink the alcohol.
Seniors who abuse alcohol can suffer from insomnia, depression and restlessness, for which they will need psychiatric treatment.
More Articles :
American Academy of Family Physician: Alcoholism in the Elderly