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  • COPD And Alcohol | How Does Alcohol Affect COPD?

    How Does Alcohol Affect Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease. COPD is progressive and causes an obstruction of airflow which can lead to a number of serious breathing problems. 

    Excessive alcohol consumption can impact the health of someone diagnosed with COPD. Although alcohol may not directly cause COPD, heavy alcohol abuse can lead to a number of problems.

    Those with COPD who drink alcohol have an increased risk of worsening their lung health. 

    The Effects Of Alcohol On The Lungs

    COPD patients may want to avoid alcohol that can worsen the disease. In fact, large quantities of alcohol can harm lung function. 

    Heavy drinking can reduce your levels of glutathione, which is an antioxidant that helps protect your lungs. Drinking too many alcoholic beverages can also cause COPD flare-ups. 

    Alcohol can also cause your lungs to become unable to clear mucus from the airways. The cilia in your lungs can be damaged by heavy alcohol abuse, potentially causing more mucus to stay in your lungs.

    Weakened Immune System

    Those who drink heavily may develop a weakened immune system since alcohol can cause your body to lose the nutrients it needs. Those with COPD can develop even more complications such as heart disease

    Understanding COPD

    The two main forms of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. While chronic bronchitis causes a long-term cough that includes mucus, emphysema causes damage to the lungs. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Those who develop COPD may experience a wide range of symptoms depending on the severity. 

    COPD symptoms may include:

    • chronic cough
    • shortness of breath
    • fatigue
    • ​chronic mucus production
    • multiple respiratory infections
    • Wheezing

    Risk Factors For COPD

    There are several risk factors that make a person more likely to develop COPD, including a genetic condition known as alpha-1 deficiency-related emphysema. Cigarette smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for developing COPD as well.

    Other risk factors for COPD include the air you breathe. Whether you work in an office or at home, it’s important to be mindful of what enters your lungs. Each of the following can play a role in the development of COPD:

    • secondhand cigarette smoke
    • ​dust
    • fumes
    • chemicals
    • air pollution

    In order to best avoid developing COPD, it’s important to avoid heavy alcohol consumption and to quit smoking if you’re currently a smoker. 

    Treating COPD

    A cardiovascular disorder such as COPD may require urgent medical attention. When you meet with a doctor, you’ll want to be open and honest regarding your medical history, revealing how many drinks you have per day or if you smoke. 

    Your doctor may want to check your pulmonary function. If it’s determined that you have COPD, you should likely stop drinking alcohol. Your doctor may provide COPD medications that can ease symptoms, as well as pain medication and additional medical advice. 

    Alcohol Treatment

    Those who are struggling with heavy alcohol use may need to consider professional treatment. Alcohol use disorder, or alcohol addiction, is treated with medication, therapy, and peer support.

    To learn about treatment options, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Alcohol Research - Alcohol’s Effects on Lung Health and Immunity
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) - COPD
    International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - Self-reported alcohol intake and risk of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a prospective cohort study
    Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association - Wine, Spirits and the Lung: Good, Bad or Indifferent?
    US National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 11, 2021
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