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By: S. Rennie, LPN

Although the liver is generally the first organ that comes to mind when speaking of alcohol-organ damage, damage to the lungs can also result. Dr. Marc Moss at Emory University first connected the relationship between damaged lungs and alcohol in the late 1990s.2 Since then research on the effect on the lungs has increased.1

Those who suffer with alcohol dependence are more likely to get pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) than those who don't. This happens because the alcohol disturbs claudins – proteins that help maintain a tight air-fluid barrier in the lung.1,2 When these proteins are disrupted, there is more fluid leaking into the lungs – referred to as 'alcoholic lung.1 If the lung is healthy, this fluid is easily pumped out by the lung. It's when the lung is damaged or infected, it can't pump out the excess and therefore becomes susceptible to pneumonia or ARDS.

"Heavy drinking and its relationship to lung disease is like driving on the highway without a seat belt," said the scientist Dr. David Guidot, associate professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine. "It's risky behavior, but it doesn't cause injury unless you get in an accident. Alcohol doesn't cause lung disease unless you get sick, then the lungs are less able to respond to the challenges of infection," he added.2



  1. Alcohol Bad For Lungs As Well As Liver. Medical News Today. November 8, 2006.

  2. Alcohol damage spreads to lungs. NUTRA / Europe. April 29, 2002.

This page was last modified on : 10/28/2013

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