Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Brain, Kidneys and Liver

The presence of both kidneys will still work much harder than normal just to deal with the increase in the toxins that accumulate. While high blood pressure was more common in the group of men who drank moderate amounts of alcohol, this group had a decreased risk of kidney disease. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


alcohol and kidneys can hamper the regulation of acidity, thus affecting the body’s metabolic balance. Chronic alcoholism is the leading cause of low blood levels of magnesium (i.e., hypomagnesemia) in the United States . Often it occurs simultaneously with phosphate deficiencies, also frequently encountered among alcoholic patients. Hypomagnesemia responds readily to magnesium supplementation treatment, however. Similarly, clinicians long have noted significant kidney enlargement (i.e., nephromegaly) in direct proportion to liver enlargement among chronic alcoholic2 patients afflicted with liver cirrhosis. Laube and colleagues suggested that both cellular enlargement and cell proliferation contribute to such nephromegaly.

Symptoms of kidney pain

As a result, the kidneys can quickly lose their function and cause lasting damage. Last but certainly not least, alcohol can cause liver disease, which in turn can increase the burden placed on the kidneys. Liver disease can reduce the kidneys’ ability to maintain a healthy level of blood flow, which in turn can impair the kidneys’ ability to filter out blood in a healthy way. Many Americans who have both liver disease and kidney damage suffer from alcohol use and dependence.

The damage can usually be reversed if you stop drinking and allow your kidneys to recover, but it can sometimes cause irreversible damage to the kidneys. A compromised diluting ability has important implications for the management of patients with advanced liver disease. Restricting the fluid intake of hyponatremic patients eventually should restore a normal fluid balance; unfortunately, this restriction may be difficult to implement. Patients frequently fail to comply with their physician’s orders to limit their fluid intake. Furthermore, clinicians sometimes overlook the fact that fluids taken with medications also must be restricted for these patients and mistakenly bring pitchers of juice or water to their bedsides.

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Interestingly, age makes a difference in how rapidly the https://ecosoberhouse.com/ escapes alcohol’s ADH-suppressive effect. People older than age 50 overcome suppression of ADH more quickly than their younger counterparts do, despite reaching similar serum electrolyte concentrations after alcohol consumption. In older people, ADH levels sharply increase following alcohol intake, perhaps in part because sensitivity to increased electrolyte concentration is enhanced with age. It is not known whether chronic alcoholic patients experience a similar difference in the ADH response as they age, however. In the absence of ADH, segments of the kidney’s tubule system become impermeable to water, thus preventing it from being reabsorbed into the body. Under these conditions, the urine formed is dilute and electrolyte concentration in the blood simultaneously rises.

Do kidneys recover from alcohol?

The kidneys can often recover from alcohol damage. Studies show that many of the kidney-related problems caused by alcohol use resolve with four weeks of abstinence.

If you notice kidney pain after binge drinking, specific care measures can help while you await a check-in with a healthcare provider. In addition to kidney pain, symptoms of kidney failure include exhaustion, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, headache, difficulty concentrating, changes in urination, or swelling in the ankles and legs. If you believe that you or someone you know is at risk of kidney failure and are experiencing these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. You may then need to endure regular kidney dialysis to filter your blood and keep things properly balanced, or undergo a kidney transplant.

How Alcohol Affects Kidneys

The amounts of these substances must be held within very narrow limits, regardless of the large variations possible in their intake or loss. The kidneys are the organs primarily responsible for regulating the amounts and concentrations of these substances in the extracellular fluid. When living with kidney disease, your doctor may prescribe certain medicationsto help you manage your health. You may also be taking medications for other health conditions such as high blood pressureor diabetes.

  • Spend a lot of time drinking, thinking or talking about drinking, deciding how and when you are going to get your next drink, and recovering from alcohol’s effects.
  • One form of alcohol abuse that contributes to kidney disease is binge drinking, usually defined as consuming four or five drinks within two hours.
  • One way in which alcohol directly affects the kidneys is by altering the form and structure of this pair of organs, as demonstrated by various animal studies.
  • In addition, the dehydrating effects of alcohol impact your kidneys’ ability to maintain the optimal amount of water in your body.

For women who are age 21 and over, drinking in moderation means consuming up to one drink per day and up to two drinks per day for men. One alcoholic drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of liquor. Alcohol sales continue to surge as the U.S. is forced to shelter at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, alcoholic beverage sales have increased by 55% in 2020 compared to last year. While opting for a few drinks during the week is not a cause for concern, it’s important to be mindful of the long-term health effects of chronic alcohol use. Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can positively impact your body and brain, and allow your excretory system a chance to health.

What to Do If You Drink Alcohol and Experience Kidney Pain

Research other stories about people who live with a single kidney; there’s no need to learn everything the hard way. The Kidney and Hypertension Center physicians provide comprehensive care in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of the full spectrum of kidney-related conditions. We employ highly-specialized addiction professionals who deliver services to our clients with skill and compassion. We are dedicated to providing clients with the knowledge and support they need to achieve a full recovery and enjoy long-lasting wellness.

How quickly can alcohol damage kidneys?

Binge drinking (usually more than four to five drinks within two hours) can raise a person's blood alcohol to dangerous levels. This can cause a sudden drop in kidney function known as "acute kidney injury." When this happens, dialysis is needed until a person's kidney function returns to normal.

These effects vary depending on factors such as the amount and duration of drinking, the presence of other diseases, and the drinker’s nutritional status (see table, p. 90). Among the most important substances contributing to these conditions are water, sodium, potassium, calcium, and phosphate. Loss or retention of any one of these substances can influence the body’s handling of the others. In addition, hydrogen ion concentration (i.e., acid-base balance) influences cell structure and permeability as well as the rate of metabolic reactions.