Alcoholism has three stages according to EndStageAlcoholism.net. The first two stages represent increasing dependency and addiction. According to the “5-Minute Clinical Consult” textbook, it is estimated that in the United States, 9.6 percent of men and 3.2 percent of women will experience symptoms of alcohol dependence. End stage alcoholism represents the culmination of years of drinking and its effects on the body.
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The end stage alcoholic will suffer from malnutrition. The effects that years of drinking have on the gastric mucosa and the intestinal lining are deleterious, states EndStageAlcoholism.net. Eventually the gastrointestinal system is unable to properly digest and absorb nutrients. In end stage disease, the primary obsession of the alcoholic is to find more alcohol to the exclusion of everything else, including food. Thiamine deficiency, or B1 deficiency, is common in end stage alcoholism as well as folate deficiency, which is secondary to malnutrition. Folate deficiency can cause mouth ulcers, poor growth, diarrhea and a swollen tongue, according to MedlinePlus. Thiamine deficiency can affect the mental acuity of the alcoholic. Malnutrition can severely impair the liver and prevent it from making the necessary chemicals and hormones needed for the body to live, notes EndStageAlcoholism.net.
According to MedlinePlus, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is related to vitamin B1 deficiency. Wernicke’s encephalopathy usually occurs first. This vitamin B1 deficiency causes loss of muscle coordination, leg tremors, abnormal eye movements, double vision and eyelid drooping. Wernicke’s damages the lower parts of the brain called the thalamus and hypothalamus. Korsakoff’s psychosis is characterized by loss of memory, making up of stories and hallucinations. Eventually Korsakoff syndrome can lead to coma and death, reports MedlinePlus.
Alcoholics frequently suffer from pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas. According to MedlinePlus, 70 percent of the cases of pancreatitis are caused by alcoholism. The pancreas produces enzymes used to aid digestion. When inflammation causes the enzymes to be released inside the pancreas instead of being sent to the small intestine, the pancreas literally starts to digest itself. This is a painful and very serious condition. Patients with pancreatitis can go into liver or kidney failure. Many patients with pancreatitis develop acute respiratory distress syndrome and need to be placed on a ventilator. The death rate is high in patients with already established liver, kidney or heart failure, explains MedlinePlus.