Physical Signs of an Alcoholic

iPhoto by Ryn Gargulinski

Your relative may naturally have a big, bloated face and a red, bulbous nose. Or it could be the result of years of drinking. The physical signs of an alcoholic, even one that has quit drinking and is in recovery, can often be spotted a mile away. They can also linger for years or can be part of the permanent damage done from a person who became obsessed, controlled and dependent on the drink.


Red, ruddy facial features and a bloated face are often evident with alcoholism. The infamous "beer belly" is another common factor, not only from fat being deposited around the middle but also from the bloating caused by water retention that goes along with alcohol. The belly will often be distended and much heftier than the arms or legs, which will stick out like little stick figure limbs.


The brain certainly takes a beating from years of alcohol abuse. Memory loss, slurred speech and other functional problems come hand in hand with alcoholic drinking. One of the worst conditions that can come about is called "wet brain," or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This syndrome is irreversible and leaves a person with mental disturbances, partially paralyzed eye movements, confusion, drowsiness and a stagger.


The liver, too, is wholly abused by an alcoholic. Many alcoholics have livers that are inflamed, often large enough to leave a bulge through their skin where the liver is positioned in their bodies. Alcoholic hepatitis, or an inflammation of the liver, comes with jaundice, abdominal pain and fever. The next step after alcoholic hepatitis is often cirrhosis of the liver, where the liver becomes permanently scarred. This condition can turn fatal if the person continues to drink.


Alcoholics are prone to stomach upset, aches and even ulcers. The constant mixture of alcohol in the stomach wrecks havoc on the organ's lining. Signs of an ulcer or other alcohol-related stomach disorders often include a burning sensation, inability to keep food down, nausea and bleeding.

Further Symptoms

If all these physical symptoms are not enough for any alcoholic to deal with, there are still more. Alcoholics have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, all of which are helped along by chronic, heavy alcohol use. Epilepsy, seizures, nerve damage and a tingling sensation in the extremities are other hazards. Men who drink long and hard enough also can experience erectile dysfunction while women who drink during pregnancy can cause birth defects.