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Alcohol and Bruising: The Link and Risks Explained

Alcohol and Bruising: The Link and Risks Explained

Sometimes, alcoholism and bruising can go hand-in-hand. Learn the reason, as well as how to get treatment, here.

Chronic alcohol misuse has a negative effect on every system of the body. Something people might notice with ongoing, severe alcohol misuse is bruising from alcohol. So, why do alcoholism and bruising sometimes go hand-in-hand? Learn the answer, as well as how to get help with medication assisted treatment for alcohol use, below. 

What Is Alcoholism?

When people use the term “alcoholism,” what they are really referring to is an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for an addiction to alcohol. Alcoholism is a colloquial term, and it really isn’t a politically correct way to refer to an alcohol addiction.

An alcohol use disorder is a legitimate medical condition that causes lasting changes in the brain. Once a person develops an alcohol use disorder, they will continue to drink, even in the face of serious consequences, such as health problems caused by alcohol. Brain changes from repeated alcohol misuse lead to compulsive drinking and make it difficult to stop without treatment. 

What Are The Common Signs Of Alcohol Use Disorder?

When someone develops an alcohol use disorder, they will show signs or symptoms that are characteristic of this condition. Some of these signs are described below. 

Continued Use Despite Consequences

One of the diagnostic criteria that points toward an alcohol use disorder is continuing to drink, even in the face of consequences. These consequences can include relationship problems, difficulty fulfilling duties at work or home, or a worsening of health problems. If a person continues to drink despite health-related problems, bruises after drinking may be a consequence that arises from alcohol misuse. 

Large Quantities Of Alcohol Consumption

Other signs of an alcohol use disorder include spending a significant amount of time drinking, or consuming larger quantities of alcohol than intended. A person may also develop a tolerance for alcohol, meaning that they need larger and larger amounts to obtain the desired effects.

What all of this means is that people who live with an alcohol use disorder are likely to consume large quantities of alcohol. While some people may have just a drink or two on special occasions, people with an alcohol use disorder may lose control of their drinking, and consume ten or more drinks, for example. They may have such a high tolerance that they do not show any overt signs of intoxication, despite drinking large amounts. 

Placing Themselves In Danger

When drinking becomes compulsive, as is the case with alcohol use disorder, a person may place themselves in danger when consuming alcohol, because drinking becomes more important than safety. Examples of drinking in dangerous situations include driving while under the influence or drinking before operating some form of heavy machinery. 

Withdrawal Symptoms

Another sign of an alcohol use disorder is experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness, sweating, sleep disturbances, nausea, racing heart, or even seizures, when not drinking. Similarly, a person may have alcohol cravings associated with these withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal side effects can be incredibly uncomfortable, which can lead a person to resume drinking to alleviate these side effects. Because of this fact, a person with an alcohol use disorder may have several failed attempts to stop drinking. 

Focusing All Attention On Drinking

Finally, a person with an alcohol use disorder will likely give up other activities, because their focus is on drinking. They may stop participating in hobbies, or withdraw from friends and family members, because their desire to drink is stronger than their need for social interaction or other forms of recreation. 

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Dangers Of Alcohol Misuse 

Alcohol misuse is associated with numerous risks. Over the short term, drinking excessive quantities of alcohol can lead to injuries, violence, and alcohol poisoning. The risk of suicide, sexual assault, and homicide also increases with alcohol misuse. Furthermore, heavy drinking may lead to risky sexual behavior and unintended pregnancy. 

Long-term alcohol misuse can lead to numerous health problems. It increases the risk of various types of cancer, as well as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Another health-related risk linked to chronic alcohol misuse is liver disease, which is often the cause of bruising from alcohol. 

What Is A Bruise?

According to the National Library of Medicine, a bruise is a mark under the skin, usually painful and swollen, that occurs because of blood trapped beneath the skin’s surface. When a person gets a bruise, some sort of injury crushes blood vessels, but the skin does not break and cause external bleeding.

Causes Of Bruises After Drinking 

There are several causes of bruises after drinking; some of these causes are not particularly serious, whereas others could point to a health problem. Perhaps the most common cause of bruising from alcohol is that alcohol acts as a vasodilator, making blood vessels larger. 

Because alcohol dilates the blood vessels, you’re more susceptible to bruises when under the influence. In addition, the loss of coordination that comes with a heavy night of drinking can make you more susceptible to falls or other injuries that can result in a bruise

Finally, one potentially serious cause of alcohol and bruising is alcohol liver disease. As liver functioning declines from chronic alcohol misuse, a person is likely to bleed and bruise easily. 

Dangers Of Alcohol-Related Bruises

Waking up with bruises after a night of drinking may not be terribly concerning, but the truth is that if you are drinking heavily enough that you acquire injuries you do not remember, you are likely placing yourself in danger from drinking. After all, heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of serious injuries from falls, burns, and motor vehicle crashes. 

Furthermore, if alcohol bruises are a result of liver damage, you likely have alcoholic liver disease, which causes severe dysfunction in the liver. Alcohol is known to be toxic to the liver, and a majority of people who regularly consume 4 or more drinks per day will develop a fatty liver.

Only a minority of people with fatty liver from alcohol will go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver, which means that those who experience bruised liver from drinking are suffering from the most severe form of liver damage. Liver damage from cirrhosis is not reversible, and it is linked to high mortality rates. 

Liver Damage And Bruising

Alcohol and unexplained bruising could point to liver damage from drinking. Easy bruising and bleeding are signs of cirrhosis, which is a serious liver disorder. This condition has a high mortality rate and is not reversible. 

Liver cirrhosis is linked to bleeding complications and can even lead to the formation of a large type of bruise called a hematoma. If you experience easy bruising with alcohol consumption and there is no apparent cause of the bruising, it’s important to seek medical attention, because you may be experiencing liver disease.

When To Ask For Professional Help 

Continuing to drink, even when it causes health problems, is a sign of an alcohol use disorder. Someone who lives with an alcohol use disorder may experience lasting brain changes that make it difficult to stop drinking. If you’re aware that drinking is causing health problems, such as liver issues and bruising from alcohol, but you’re unable to stop drinking on your own, it’s time to seek treatment. 

Even if you aren’t experiencing severe health problems like cirrhosis from alcohol, seeking early treatment can prevent an alcohol use disorder from progressing and causing severe complications. If alcohol begins to interfere with daily functioning, but you have been unsuccessful with giving up drinking, seeking treatment can help you to stay committed to recovery.

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Alcohol Bruises FAQ

If you have questions about alcohol and bruising, the following information may be helpful:

Are Alcohol Bruises Dangerous?

Sometimes, bruising after drinking occurs because of the fact that alcohol dilates the blood vessels. When blood vessels are dilated, you’re more likely to experience a bruise after bumping into something. This effect may explain why you’re waking up with bruises after drinking.

While bumping into something while drinking may seem relatively harmless, the truth is that excessive drinking can set you up for serious injuries from falling or other accidents. Furthermore, in extreme cases, bruises from drinking can be a sign of liver damage, which can be dangerous. 

Why Do I Get Random Bruises After A Night Of Drinking?

Often, bruising after drinking is a result of falling or bumping into something. Coordination problems from alcohol consumption make injuries more likely, and since alcohol dilates the blood vessels, you’re more likely to bruise if you do fall or bump into something. 

Do You Bleed More When You Drink?

Dilated blood vessels can make bleeding more likely when you drink. If you have cirrhosis from alcohol liver damage, you’re also more likely to bleed and bruise easily. 

Consult With Confidant’s Online Doctors For Alcohol Treatment

If you’re experiencing alcohol symptoms like easy bruising, or you simply want to break free from alcohol misuse, Confidant is here to help. We provide online medication assisted treatment for alcohol use, so you can begin your recovery from home.

Download our app today, on either the App Store or the Google Play Store, to get started.  

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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