- Function of the Liver
- 3 Stages
- Risk Factors & Complications
- Diagnosis & Treatment
- Related Resources
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:
- Abdominal pain
- Swollen abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Weight loss
What function does the liver perform in the body?
The liver plays an important role in metabolism.
Other major functions of the liver include:
What are the stages of alcoholic liver disease?
There are three stages of alcoholic liver disease:
- 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.
- Alcoholic hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver and is caused by excess alcohol consumption.
- 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.
What are the risk factors and complications for alcoholic liver disease?
The risk factors for alcoholic liver disease include:
- Excess alcohol consumption
- 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:
- Hepatic encephalopathy (due to the buildup of toxins in the brain)
- Bleeding abnormalities
- Kidney failure
- Increased risk of infections
- Enlarged spleen
- Portal hypertension (increased blood pressure in the veins carrying blood from the gut to the liver)
- Increased risk of bone fractures
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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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
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
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