Worried that alcohol may be affecting your health?
Because alcohol reaches every part of the body, it can also damage many different parts of the body.
Read about alcohol's effects on the body - from heart disease to cancer risk, liver disease to diabetes.
Being aware of any changes in your body and possible links to alcohol can help you to spot problems early and take action to sort them out - by changing your drinking pattern or getting medical help
Hard-to-spot problems - it’s not all red noses and liver damage
It may be obvious that alcohol is causing a problem with your health. There may also be less obvious symptoms, which you might not connect to alcohol.
Some conditions, like alcohol-related liver disease, may not have any symptoms in the early stages.
“Young men and women often present to their GP with a serious healthcare problem, caused by alcohol, unaware that their intake of alcohol was the reason for their complaint. Patients may present with mental health symptoms such as anxiety, low mood or poor sleep, which are directly related to excessive alcohol intake. Similarly many patients present to their GP with a physical complaint such as fatigue, a sexual health problems or trauma, relating to excessive consumption of alcohol, of which they may not be aware.”1
Could alcohol be causing my health problems?
Alcohol may not be the first thing you think about if you are having health problems. You may be more likely to think about other causes like stress, poor diet or getting older. For example:
“I don’t sleep well. I have a lot of worries.”
“My sex life is not what it was now that I’m older”
“I seem to get a lot of infections. I must be a bit run down at the moment”
Alcohol may not be the cause, but if you regularly drink above the low-risk limit, it’s worth asking: Could alcohol be causing my health problems or making them worse?
What symptoms should I look for?
Various health problems can be caused or made worse by alcohol. For example, poor sleep, skin rashes, irregular or rapid heartbeat, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, repeated infections, and feeling very tired. Problems may also be a symptom of a more serious condition.
Health problems like these can have many different causes, but alcohol may not be a cause you think about.
Should I go to the doctor?
If you have any new symptoms or health problems that are bothering you, it's always best to get them checked out by your GP.
Problems are normally solved more easily if they are treated sooner rather than later.
If you drink above the low-risk limits, it's a good idea to give your GP some information about your drinking pattern, in case your problem is alcohol-related.
Everyone I know drinks - none of them are ill
Not everyone who drinks alcohol will get ill. But we know for sure that regularly drinking above the low-risk guidelines increases the risk of many health problems. As time goes on, the more likely it is that health problems will develop.
Also, because people don’t know about all the health problems linked to alcohol, they may have alcohol-related health problems without realising the cause.
1 Dr Mark Murphy, Irish College of General Practitioners