Congenital, individual and acquired alcohol intolerance: symptoms, causes

August 17, 2017 23:00 | Alcoholism

Our body is individual and reacts differently to the intake of various substances.Quite often people have food or drug intolerance, and some people have this condition on alcohol.

Alcohol intolerance

Alcohol intolerance is a pathological condition that manifests itself as a sudden and dramatic deterioration in health after alcohol.In fact, this is a reaction of immunity to the ingestion of an irritant in the form of ethanol.

Many people often confuse intolerance with an allergic reaction, however, these concepts are somewhat different.With allergies, alcohol acts as a kind of catalyst, provoking a reaction.Allergy usually occurs on the components of alcoholic beverages, for example, preservatives, flavors, malt, etc. While in the case of intolerance the reaction occurs directly to ethanol.

The body of people with alcohol intolerance is simply physically incapable of splitting ethanol, so the only way to cope with intolerance is the absolute elimination of alcohol.


Types of alcohol intolerance

  • Congenital is a genetically determined feature of the body in which the body can not process ethanol and its metabolites since birth;
  • Individual - similar alcoholic intolerance arises due to the material exchange characteristics of the organism, which are observed in people suffering from the 3rd stage of alcohol dependence.Such patients had previously tolerated alcohol well, but over time alcoholism destroys organic structures and provokes the emergence of individual intolerance;
  • Acquired - arises from taking any medications, diseases, head injuries, etc.


True alcohol intolerance usually occurs in humans even at birth.The cause of this condition is the enzymatic features, which consist in the inability of the splitting of alcohol.

In addition, experts identify several factors that have a different effect on the formation of alcohol intolerance:

  • Hodgkin's lymphoma;
  • Ethnic features.Usually in Asians intolerance to alcohol is found much more often than in European nations;
  • Reception Disulfiram in the treatment of alcohol dependence;
  • Use of medicines for antifungal and antibiotic action.

Sometimes intolerance is individual and manifests itself as a clinical syndrome of alcohol dependence.Usually a similar reaction occurs on the 3 stages of alcoholism.

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The most characteristic sign of alcohol intolerance is the sudden redness of the skin.Because of this feature, this condition is often called flash syndrome( blush syndrome, blood rush syndrome).This reaction occurs almost instantaneously, immediately after drinking alcohol, even in small amounts.

Even children may develop a flash syndrome due to taking a drug containing ethanol.In the body, there is a rapid accumulation of acetaldehyde, which is not broken down by the liver.As a result, toxins provoke redness of the skin on the face, body.If, in spite of the reaction, continue to drink alcohol, then the toxic effect of the toxin is greatly amplified.

In the photo, the reaction to alcohol in the form of a rash on the body

Symptoms and causes of alcohol intolerance

Alcohol destroys the nervous system functions, cardiovascular and pulmonary activity, the work of the digestive system, etc.

In general, specialists identify such symptomsAlcohol intolerance:

  • Hyperemia of skin on the body and face;
  • Eruptions similar to hives;
  • Lachrymation and redness of the eyes;Itching sensations and hypertension;
  • Hyperemia and fever;Runny nose and cough;
  • Vertigo, headaches, frequent loss of consciousness;
  • Nauseating and vomiting symptoms, attacks of heartburn;
  • Increased blood pressure, tendency to bleeding;
  • Choking, tachycardia, etc.

In addition, the severity of manifestations is influenced by the type of alcohol, its quantity and quality.In some patients, after an alcohol swallow, anaphylactic shock or asthma attack, Quincke's swelling or coma develops, which can end up lethal.


The quality of the diagnosis depends on the correctness of the diagnosis.An important moment in determining the pathology is its differentiation with alcoholic allergy.

In general, diagnostic procedures include several procedures:

  1. Collecting anamnesis through a patient interview and a thorough medical examination.
  2. Performing skin tests.On the surface of the skin, an insignificant amount of alcohol is applied, followed by monitoring the reactions to ethanol.
  3. Laboratory diagnostics of blood.Blood is examined for the presence of immunoglobulin E - a specific protein that directly indicates the presence of hypersensitivity and intolerance to ethanol and products containing it.


Treatment of alcohol intolerance The main condition for the treatment of alcohol intolerance is the complete elimination of alcohol forever.If the reaction to alcohol is a mild allergy, then antihistamines are used.If the attack of intolerance has acquired a dangerous status, then desensitizing and detoxification therapy is used.

To eliminate acute reactions of alcohol intolerance, hormone therapy, hemosorption or plasmapheresis blood purification can also be prescribed.As additional drugs are assigned enzyme and eubiotic drugs.

After the end of treatment, patients with alcohol intolerance should pay close attention to treatment, since the medicinal tincture contains alcohol, which can again cause an acute attack.If the patient has a craving for alcohol, then it is necessary to undergo additional specialized treatment for alcoholism.


In case of an intolerance, it is necessary to immediately eliminate the toxic effects of ethanol on the body, otherwise complications such as:

  • Migraines may occur.The cause of headaches are histamine substances present in the composition of ethanol;
  • Anaphylactic shock.Because of an acute attack of intolerance, anaphylactic shock can provoke death;
  • Alcohol coma;
  • A dangerous attack of suffocation.

Prevention methods

No medications are able to prevent a reaction in the presence of alcohol intolerance.If the patient is diagnosed with an alcoholic intolerance of a congenital nature, then alcohol is banned for life, because no drugs will help to remove the acute syndrome of intolerance.If you find an allergy to certain components of alcoholic beverages, you need to take a closer look at the choice of alcohol.