ALEXIA
A
ALCOHOL-RELATED DISORDERS
Cancer
High alcohol consumption increases the risk
of breast cancer in women and cancers ofthe
mouth, tongue, pharynx (back ofthe throat),
larynx (voicebox), and oesophagus, probably
due to irritant action. In each ofthese cancers,
alcohol intake, along with smoking, produces
a much higher total riskofcancer than the
sum oftheir separate risks. The riskof
liver
cancer
,
along with most types of liver disease,
is also higher among problem drinkers.
Liver damage and disease
Liver diseases caused by a high alcohol
consumption include fatty liver, alcoholic
hepatitis
,
cirrhosis, and liver cancer. They
develop in sequence over a period ofyears. It
is thought that a breakdown product of alcohol
(acetaldehyde) has a toxic effect on liver cells
and is the main cause ofthese diseases,
although nutritional deficiency may also play
some part. The risk of alcoholic hepatitis and
cirrhosis developing increases in proportion to
the amountofalcohol consumed and the
number ofyearsofhigh consumption; liver
cancer develops in about one in five sufferers
ofcirrhosis.
Nervous system disorders
Thiamine (vitamin B) deficiency, also known
as
beriberi
(which disturbs nerve functioning),
may develop in problem drinkers. The effect
of severe deficiency on the brain produces
Wernicke's encephalopathy, with symptoms
such as confusion, disturbances of speech
and gait, and eventual coma. Korsakoff’s
psychosis may also occur (see
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
).
The effect
on the peripheral nervous system (nerve
pathways outside the brain and spinal cord)
produces polyneuropathy, with symptoms
such as pain, cramps, numbness, tingling,
and weakness in the legs and hand.Excess
consumption ofalcohol can also cause
dementia
.
Psychiatric illness
Problem drinkers are more likely than others to
suffer from anxiety and depression (frequently
related financial, work, or family problems)
and from paranoia. They are also more likely to
develop dementia (irreversible mental
deterioration). The incidence of suicide
attempts and actual suicide is also higher
among problem drinkers.
Heart and circulatory disorders
Severe deficiency of thiamine in problem
drinkers can result in heart failure (reduced
pumping efficiency), which is usually
combined with oedema (the collection of fluid
in tissues). A high consumption of alcohol also
increases the risk of hypertension (high
blood pressure), cerebral haemorrhage, and
cardiomyopathy
.
One type of stroke is also
associated with excessive consumption
ofalcohol.
Genito-urinary system disorders
High consumption of alcohol can lead to
fertility problems in women and to impotence
in men. Heavy drinking during pregnancy
carries the riskofspontaneous abortion and
ofthe baby being born with
fetal alcohol
syndrome
.
Other medical disorders
Other physical diseases and disorders that
are associated with high intake of alcohol
include
gastritis
and acute and chronic
pancreatitis
,
(all ofwhich are probably
linked to an irritant action ofalcohol),
osteoporosis
(thinning ofthe bones), and
damage to the skeletal muscles and those of
the genito-urinary tract.
tensions, the Alexander technique aims
to eliminate or reduce the severity of
many disorders, including back pain,
asthma, and stammering.
alexia
Word blindness; the inability to recog-
nize and name written words. Alexia
results from damage to part of the cere-
brum (the main mass of the brain) by,
for example, a
stroke.
The condition
severely disrupts the reading ability of
an individual who was previously liter-
ate. (See also
dyslexia.)
alfacalcidol
A synthetic form of
vitamin D.
alginates
Substances used in certain types of
antacid drugs.
Alginates float on top of
the stomach contents, forming a raft,
which reduces
acid reflux.
and protects
the oesophagus.
alienation
Feeling
like
a
stranger,
even when
among familiar people or places, and
being unable to identify with family, a
culture, or a peer group. Alienation is
common in adolescents, and it also
occurs in individuals who are isolated
by cultural or language differences. In
some people, alienation may be an early
symptom of
schizophrenia
or a
persona-
lity disorder.
alignment, dental
The movement of teeth by the use of
either fixed or removable
orthodontic
appliances
(braces)
to correct
maloc-
clusion
(an incorrect bite).
alimemazine
An
antihistamine drug
that is used mainly
to relieve the itching that occurs in
allergic conditions such as
urticaria
and
atopic
eczema.
Alimemazine frequently
causes drowsiness.
alimentary tract
Also known as the alimentary canal, the
tubelike structure that extends from the
mouth to the anus (see
digestive system).
alkali
Also called a base, an alkali is chemi-
cally defined as a donor of hydroxyl
ions (each of which comprises an atom
of hydrogen linked to an atom of oxygen
and has an overall negative electrical
charge).
Antacid drugs,
such as sodium
bicarbonate (bicarbonate of soda), are
examples of alkalis. Some alkalis, such
as sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), are
corrosive and cause burns. (See also
acid
;
acid-base balance.)
alkaloids
A group of nitrogen-containing subs-
tances that are obtained from plants.
Morphine, codeine, nicotine,
and strych-
nine
(see
strychnine
poisoning
)
are
examples of alkaloids.
alkalosis
A disturbance of the body’s
acid-base
balance
in which there is an accumula-
tion of alkali (base) or a loss of acid.
There are two types of alkalosis: meta-
bolic and respiratory.
In metabolic alkalosis, the increase in
alkalinity may be caused by taking too
much of an
antacid drug
or by losing a
large amount of stomach acid as a result
of severe vomiting.
In respiratory alkalosis, there is a
reduction in the blood level of carbonic
acid (derived from carbon dioxide).
This reduction is a consequence of
hyperventilation
(overbreathing), which
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