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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Physical Exam for Alcohol Use Problems

During a physical exam, your doctor will check you for signs of alcohol use problems. Your doctor will:

  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Listen to your heart.
  • Examine your belly for an enlarged or tender liver.
  • Check to see whether your hands shake when you hold them out in front of you.
  • Check your skin for changes that might be related to alcohol use over time, such as redness in your palms, tiny red dots from which small blood vessels radiate (spider veins), or a skin condition similar to acne (rosacea).

If your doctor thinks that you are under the influence of alcohol during the exam, he or she will:

  • Smell your breath to see whether it smells like alcohol. Your doctor might test your breath for alcohol (breath test).
  • Check your balance by asking you to stand with your eyes closed and walk placing your heels directly in front of your toes.
  • Check your thinking and problem-solving ability by asking questions or having you solve math problems.
  • Draw a sample of your blood for certain laboratory tests (such as liver function).

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerPeter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction

Current as ofMarch 12, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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