Fast Five Quiz: Alcohol Use Facts vs Fiction

Richard H. Sinert, DO


January 21, 2021

Globally, an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women have alcohol-use disorders, with the highest prevalence in Europe and the Americas. The diagnosis of alcohol abuse or misuse is best made by taking a patient's history. Laboratory tests do not have a high sensitivity. Blood tests, such as liver function tests and mean corpuscular volume, are not particularly effective. Physical examination is helpful only after the consequences of alcoholism are apparent.

These are signs of chronic alcoholism:

  • Gynecomastia

  • Spider angiomata

  • Dupuytren contractures (also may be congenital)

  • Testicular atrophy

  • Enlarged or shrunken liver

  • Enlarged spleen

  • Anemia

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Cancer

  • Gout

  • Seizures

  • Hypertension

  • Neuropathy

  • Serious infections

Many studies have demonstrated that brief interventions by physicians can improve excessive alcohol use in patients. These interventions are recommended by the World Health Organization and the Community Preventive Services Task Force. A systematic review concluded that brief (10-15 minute) multicontact interventions (eg, two 15-minute sessions with a primary care doctor 1 month apart, each followed 2 weeks later by a 5-minute telephone call with a nurse) helped reduce alcohol consumption.

Read more about the treatment of alcoholism.

This Fast Five Quiz was excerpted and adapted from the Medscape Drugs & Diseases articles Alcoholism, Alcohol Toxicity, Pediatric Ethanol Toxicity, and Holiday Heart Syndrome.

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