For citation purposes: Mehta AJ. Pulmonary consequences of alcoholism: A critical review. OA Alcohol 2013 Oct 17;1(2):17.

Critical Review


Pulmonary consequences of alcoholism: a critical review

AJ Mehta*

Authors affiliations

Atlanta VA Medical Center and Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA

*Corresponding author Email:



Alcohol use and abuse are prevailing practices in people throughout the world. Unfortunately, alcohol use disorders pose tremendous costs to both society and the individual. While alcoholism has many well-known medical consequences such as liver injury and pancreatitis, the effects of chronic alcohol exposure on the respiratory system are often over looked. Specifically, studies have shown that alcohol abuse causes significant derangements in the lung and predisposes individuals to the development of pneumonia and acute lung injury. The aim of this paper was to discuss the pulmonary consequences of alcoholism.


Several important processes are responsible for this increased susceptibility to pulmonary pathology, including alterations in non-immunological defence systems, impairment of lung immunity and alveolar epithelial barrier dysfunction. These crucial defects comprise what has been referred to as the ‘alcohol lung phenotype’. Importantly, these abnormalities not only increase the risk of lung infections and injury but also they cause worse morbidity and mortality in alcoholics compared with non-alcoholics. While there are no current therapies to combat these alcohol-induced pulmonary abnormalities, current research has revealed several important mechanisms that may be exploited to develop new treatment options for this vulnerable population.

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