Alcohol-related lung disease (ARLD) is the medical term for lung damage that develops in response to excessive alcohol consumption. This damage may result from various lung conditions, such as viral infections, pneumonia, and acute lung injury.
ARLD is a potential complication of alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Chronic use of alcohol causes inflammation and harms the immune system. Eventually, this can lead to lung diseases and infections.
ARLD can refer to any lung problems that chronic alcohol consumption has influenced,
This article looks at ARLD and the effects of alcohol on the lungs. It also looks at symptoms of lung problems, treatments, and more.
Long-term heavy drinking causes inflammation and eventually harms the immune system. Over time, this can start to
This is known as ARLD, which may present as several lung problems, such as pneumonia or TB. It can result from AUD.
According to the
The symptoms of ARLD depend on the type of lung disease a person develops. Some examples are below.
Pneumonia signs and symptoms
Pneumonia is the medical term for infection and inflammation of the tiny air sacs or “alveoli” within the lungs.
A person who misuses alcohol over a long period
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), pneumonia may cause the following symptoms:
- a cough that may produce greenish, yellow, or bloody mucus
- fast, shallow breathing
- shortness of breath
- chest pain that worsens when breathing deeply or coughing
- fever and chills
- loss of appetite
Learn more about the types of pneumonia and how to treat them.
TB signs and symptoms
TB is an airborne bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs. A TB infection
According to the ALA, TB may cause the following symptoms:
- a cough lasting more than 3 weeks
- appetite loss
- weight loss
- fever, chills, and night sweats
Learn more about TB and how to treat it.
RSV is a common respiratory infection that typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms.
However, people with weakened immune systems,
According to the ALA, a barking or wheezing cough is often one of the first signs that RSV is developing into a serious illness.
Additionally, chronic use of alcohol makes people more vulnerable to other viral infections, not just RSV.
Learn more about RSV and how doctors treat it.
ARDS is the medical term for acute lung injury resulting from infection or trauma.
People with a history of alcohol misuse may be more vulnerable to ARDS and may have more severe symptoms.
ARDS is a life threatening condition. Symptoms of the condition may include the following:
- extreme shortness of breath
- rapid heart rate
- pain when breathing
- discoloration of the lips and nail beds due to low oxygen levels
Alcohol can have both short-term and long-term effects on the lungs. Some examples are below.
- Asthma: According to Asthma and Lung UK, alcoholic beverages contain substances called histamines and sulfites, which may cause asthma symptoms in some people. These substances are more abundant in red and white wine, beer, and cider.
- Choking or aspiration pneumonia: Alcohol is a stomach irritant that increases the risk of vomiting. As such, a person who passes out from alcohol intoxication is at risk of vomiting and accidentally inhaling the vomit. This can lead to choking or aspiration pneumonia, both of which can be fatal.
- Lung injury and disease: The
NIAAAstates that heavy alcohol consumption can reduce levels of the antioxidant glutathione, which typically protects the smaller airways of the lungs from oxidative damage. As such, heavy alcohol consumption makes the lungs more susceptible to serious injury and disease.
If a person begins to worry about their drinking and its effects on their physical health, they can contact a doctor.
A doctor can refer them to an AUD specialist and recommend counseling. They can also start treatment for any conditions present.
People may find it difficult to seek help for AUD, but several services and organizations can provide support.
If someone wishes to seek help or learn more about AUD, some helpful organizations include:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- American Addiction Centers
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
People may wish to reach out to family and friends, as any support is helpful when tackling AUD.
ARLD describes lung problems that result from excessive alcohol consumption. It is a possible complication of AUD.
Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken a person’s immune system, increasing their susceptibility to lung conditions, such as pneumonia, syncytial respiratory virus, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also worsen asthma and increase the risk of choking and aspiration pneumonia.
Those who have concerns about their lung health or alcohol consumption can speak with their doctor for further advice and guidance.