Alcoholic lung disease

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Alcoholic lung disease is disease of the lungs caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The term 'alcoholic lung disease' is not a generally accepted medical diagnosis, and "the association between alcohol abuse and acute lung injury remains largely unrecognized, even by lung researchers".[1]

Chronic alcohol ingestion impairs multiple critical cellular functions in the lung. These cellular impairments lead to increased susceptibility to serious complications from lung disease. Recent research cites alcoholic lung disease as comparable to liver disease in alcohol-related mortality.[1] Alcoholics have a higher risk of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and experience higher rates of mortality from ARDS when compared to non-alcoholics.

The mechanisms of alcoholic lung disease are:

  • Metabolism of alcohol reduces glutathione anti-oxidant levels in the lungs.[2]
  • Oxidation damage to the cells impairs the ability of the lungs to remove fluid.
  • Oxidative damage to cells reduces immune response.
  • Oxidative damage to cells results in a reduced ability to recover from injury.

These chemical changes compound the negative mechanical and microbiological effects of alcoholism on the respiratory system. These include: impaired gag reflex and cilia function and greater likelihood of colonies of pneumococcal bacteria in the upper respiratory system.

Although lung damage from concurrent smoking and drug use is often indistinguishable from alcoholic lung disease, there is support for considering alcoholic lung disease as an independent syndrome.[3] Over the last decade, evidence from epistemological studies show that alcohol abuse alone can increase by as much as fourfold the risk for acute respiratory distress syndrome.[4]


  1. ^ a b Kershaw CD, Guidot DM (2008). "Alcoholic Lung Disease". Alcohol Research and Health 31 (1): 66–75. 
  2. ^ Joshi PC, Guidot DM (April 2007). "The alcoholic lung: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and potential therapies". Am. J. Physiol. Lung Cell Mol. Physiol. 292 (4): L813–23. doi:10.1152/ajplung.00348.2006. PMID 17220370. 
  3. ^ Karkoulias, K.; Tsitsaras, H.; Patouchas, D.; Sampsonas, F.; Likouras, D.; Kaparianos, A.; Spiropoulos, K. (2008), "The alcoholic lung disease: historical background and clinical features", Medicina(Kaunas) 44 (9): 51–64, PMID 18971602 
  4. ^ Pratibha C. Joshi, David M. Guidot (2007). "The alcoholic lung: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and potential therapies". American Physiological Society. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 

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