Alcoholic Liver Disease
Alcoholic liver disease when left untreated may progress to cause liver cirrhosis.

Alcoholic liver disease is caused by excess alcohol intake, where the alcohol and its byproducts damage the liver. It causes accumulation of fats in the liver, inflammation, and, finally, scarring of liver tissues (cirrhosis).

Alcohol consumption and liver disease are complex. Not all excessive alcohol-consuming people develop liver disease, and a few moderate drinkers may develop the disease. Nonetheless, the risk increases with an increase in the amount of alcohol intake.

Alcoholic liver disease may not show symptoms until significant damage is caused to the liver. When present, the early symptoms may include:

What function does the liver perform in the body?

The liver plays an important role in metabolism.

Other major functions of the liver include:

  • Produces bile that helps digest fats
  • Breaks down drugs, alcohol, and other toxic substances
  • Helps make proteins that assist to clot blood clot
  • Helps store glucose in the form of glycogen

What are the stages of alcoholic liver disease?

There are three stages of alcoholic liver disease:

  1. Alcoholic fatty liver disease: Caused by excess alcohol consumption that inhibits the breakdown of fats in the liver. This leads to the accumulation of fats in the liver. People with the alcoholic fatty liver disease generally do not show any symptoms.
  2. Alcoholic hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver and is caused by excess alcohol consumption.
  3. Cirrhosis of the liver: The most advanced stage of liver disease and is caused by long-term liver damage. Cirrhosis is scarring caused by persistent inflammation. Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the reasons for liver damage. Each time the liver is injured, it repairs by forming scar tissue. When cirrhosis progresses, scarred tissues increase, resulting in the improper functioning of the liver. Advanced liver cirrhosis could be life-threatening.

QUESTION

Long-term heavy alcohol consumption can cause: See Answer

What are the risk factors and complications for alcoholic liver disease?

The risk factors for alcoholic liver disease include:

  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • Chronic hepatitis infection
  • Genetic factors
  • Female gender 

Complications of alcoholic liver disease

Alcoholic liver disease when left untreated may advance to cause liver cirrhosis. This may lead to various complications, such as:

How do doctors diagnose and treat alcoholic liver disease?

The tests for the diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease include:

The first step to treating alcoholic liver disease is to stop alcohol consumption.

Dietary changes, such as a low-salt diet with sufficient protein and calories, could be suggested by your doctor. The dietary changes are typically customized to the individual’s nutritional needs. Medications could be prescribed to manage symptoms, such as pain, and lower inflammation. Advanced stages may require liver transplant surgery.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/11/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

Alcoholic hepatitis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcoholic-hepatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351388

Alcoholic liver disease. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000281.htm

Alcoholic Liver Disease. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/alcoholinduced-liver-disease