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Alcohol and kidney damage

Alcohol abuse can damage many organs in our body. This can also happen with our kidneys. The occasional use of alcohol does not pose problems, but alcohol abuse certainly does.

What is the direct effect of alcohol abuse on the kidney function?

If someone consumes more than 60g of alcohol a day for 6 months, there will be an increase in kidney size by 30% and morphological changes in kidney cells as well.

The effect of alcohol on the kidney is direct as well as indirect. There is evidence to suggest that alcohol exerts a direct harmful effect on the kidney, its functions, and the process of 'filtering' by reducing its function. Furthermore, it disturbs balance, and more specifically fluid balance. Alcohol has a diuretic action suppressing hormones that aim to regulate the metabolism of water in the body. This disrupts the ability of the kidney to maintain a constant amount of water in our body, thereby dehydrating it. Dehydration is the cause of renal dysfunction in an acute phase but also a cause of exacerbation of pre-existing renal failure. In general, people who suffer from alcohol abuse are more likely to develop albuminuria, an indicator but also a risk factor for CKD.

Does alcohol abuse affect renal function and indirectly as well?

Yes. Mainly with two mechanisms. Alcohol abuse is responsible for increasing blood pressure, which is a very strong risk factor for CKD. This is done by various mechanisms such as fluid retention in addition to chronic abuse, it also affects the autonomic nervous system, and increases the hormones that rise the pressure (adrenaline, cortisone). Alcohol is known to be responsible for liver dysfunction initially and cirrhosis of the liver at a later stage. Both situations severely affect renal function and are often associated with severe renal failure.

Is it true that alcohol abuse disrupts the balance of basic electrolytes?

Yes. It can result in hyponatremia (low sodium in the blood), low phosphorus, low magnesium and low calcium in the blood. All these electrolytes are necessary for the balance of the proper body function.

How much is the alcohol consumption limit?

You should consult your nephrologist. A good rule of thumb is to consume no more than 1-2 drinks/ day for men and a drink/ day for women or for people aged over 65.

By the Scientific Director Kalliopi Retsa


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