I
EFFECTS
The effects of high intake alcohol dep-
end on many factors, including mental
and physical state, body size, social situ-
ation, and acquired tolerance; but the
important factor is the blood alcohol
level. Mild intoxication promotes relax-
ation and increases social confidence.
However, alcohol causes acute poi-
soning if it is consumed in sufficiently
large amounts. It depresses the activity
of the
central nervous system,
(the brain
and spinal cord), leading to loss of nor-
mal mental and physical control. In
extreme cases, consumption of a large
amount of alcohol over a short period
of time may lead to loss of conscious-
ness and even death.
TREATMENT
In most cases, recovery from alcohol
intoxication
occurs
naturally
as
the
alcohol is gradually broken down in the
liver. Medical attention is required if the
intoxication has resulted in
coma
.
For a description of the effects of
long-term heavy drinking, see
alcohol
dependence
and
alcohol-related disorders.
alcoholism
See
alcohol dependence.
alcohol-related disorders
A wide variety of physical and mental
disorders associated with heavy, pro-
longed consumption of alcohol.
High alcohol consumption increases
the risk of cancer of the mouth, tongue,
pharynx (throat), larynx (voice-box),
and oesophagus (gullet), especially if
combined with smoking. Incidence of
liver diseases, such as
liver cancer,
alco-
holic
hepatitis
and
cirrhosis,
is higher in
alcohol-dependent persons. High con-
sumption of alcohol increases the risk
of
cardiomyopathy
(disease of heart mus-
cle),
hypertension
(high blood pressure),
and
stroke.
Alcohol irritates the digestive
tract and may cause
gastritis.
Heavy
drinking
during pregnancy increases
the risk of miscarriage and
fetal alcohol
syndrome.
Problem drinkers are more
likely to suffer from
anxiety
and
depres-
sion
and to develop
dementia
.
Many problem drinkers have a poor
diet and are prone to diseases caused
by nutritional deficiency, particularly of
thiamine (see
vitamin B complex).
Severe
thiamine deficiency (see
beriberi)
dis-
turbs nerve function, causing cramps,
numbness, and weakness in the legs and
hands. Its effects on the brain can cause
confusion, disturbances of speech and
ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
gait, and eventual coma (see
Wernicke-
Korsakoff syndrome).
Severe
deficiency
can also cause
heart failure
(reduced
pumping efficiency of the heart).
A prolonged high level of alcohol in
the blood and tissues can disturb the
body chemistry, resulting in
hypoglycae-
mia
(low blood glucose levels)
and
hyperlipidaemia
(high blood fat levels).
These may damage the heart, liver,
blood vessels, and brain; irreversible
damage may cause premature death.
aldosterone
A hormone secreted by the adrenal cor-
tex
(the
outer
part
of the
adrenal
glands
). Aldosterone plays an important
role in the control of blood pressure and
regulation of sodium and potassium
concentrations in the blood and tissues.
Aldosterone acts on the kidneys to
decrease the amount of sodium lost in
the urine; the sodium is reabsorbed into
the blood from urine before it leaves
the kidneys and is replaced in the urine
by potassium. The sodium draws water
back into the blood with it, thereby
increasing the blood volume and raising
the blood pressure.
Aldosterone production is stimulated
mainly by the action of
angiotensin
II, a
chemical produced by a series of reac-
tions involving the enzymes
renin
and
angiotensin-converting
enzyme.
Produc-
tion of aldosterone is also stimulated by
the action of
ACTH,
which is produced
by the pituitary gland.
alcohol, unit of
A measure that is commonly used to
define the amount of
alcohol
that is
present in a single alcoholic drink. A
unit is defined as 10 millilitres of pure
alcohol. The number of units in one
drink is calculated by multiplying the
alcohol content of that drink with its
volume, then dividing by 1000. As a
rough guide, half a pint (or a bottle)
of beer, lager, or cider has one unit; a
single measure (25 ml) of spirits has
one unit; and a small glass of wine
has one unit.
Various countries have official guide-
lines on the maximum number of units
that can be consumed per day without
endangering health. In the UK, the
Department of Health has defined safe
limits for men as three to four units per
day (or less) and for women as two to
three units per day (or less). In addi-
tion, one or two alcohol-free days per
week are usually recommended.
aldosteronism
A disorder that results from excessive
production of the hormone
aldosterone
from one or both of the
adrenal glands
.
Aldosteronism
caused by an
adrenal
tumour
is known as Conn’s syndrome.
Aldosteronism may also be due to dis-
orders, such as
heart failure
(reduced
pumping efficiency of the heart)
or
liver damage, that reduce blood flow
through the kidneys. This reduction in
the flow of blood flow leads to over-
production of
renin
and
angiotensin
,
which, in turn, leads to excessive aldos-
terone production.
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS
Symptoms of the condition are directly
related to the actions of aldosterone.
Excess sodium is retained in the body,
leading to a rise in blood pressure, and
excess potassium is lost in the urine.
Low levels of potassium cause tiredness
and muscle weakness and impair kidney
function, leading to thirst and over-
production of urine.
TREATMENT
Treatment in all cases of aldosteronism
includes restriction of salt in the diet
and use of the diuretic drug
spirono-
lactone.
This drug blocks the action of
aldosterone on the kidneys, leading to
increased loss of sodium from the body,
lowered blood pressure, and reduced
potassium loss. If the cause of aldos-
teronism is an adrenal tumour, this may
be surgically removed.
alendronate sodium
See
alendronic acid.
alendronic acid
A
bisphosphonate drug
that is used in the
treatment of
osteoporosis
and
Paget’s dis-
ease
of bone. The most common side
effect of alendronic acid is inflamma-
tion of the oesophagus, which causes
heartburn or difficulty in swallowing.
Other side effects can include headache,
abdominal pain and distension, and
diarrhoea or constipation.
Alexander technique
A therapy that aims to improve health
by teaching people to stand and move
more efficiently.
Developed in the 1920s by F. Mathias
Alexander, the technique is based on
the belief that bad patterns of body
movement interfere with the proper
functioning of the body and therefore
contribute to the development of dis-
ease. By releasing unnecessary muscle
A
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