Alcoholic liver disease is caused by excessive alcohol consumption, which damages the liver and leads to fat buildup, inflammation and scarring. The liver is one of the most complex organs in the human body, with more than 500 functions. Among which:
- Clear the blood of toxins
- Energy storage
- Manufacture of hormones and proteins
- Regulation of cholesterol and blood sugar
In 2015, 16.5% of all liver transplants in the United States were caused by alcoholic liver disease, making it the third leading cause of transplantation after chronic hepatitis C and liver cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from alcoholic liver disease in the United States in 2020 was 29,505, while it is estimated to be all-cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis causes 12 deaths per 100,000 people. . The resource for people of the year.
This article examines the early signs of liver damage and symptoms of alcoholic liver disease, their stages, causes, risk factors, treatments, and prevention.
Stages of Liver Diseases
Alcoholic liver disease has four main stages:
- Alcoholic fatty liver
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Liver Fibrosis
Liver damage can affect the entire body. Once the damage has started, it can take a long time to become noticeable, as the liver is usually very good at regenerating and repairing itself. By the time doctors discover the damage, it is often irreversible.
What are the Signs of Liver Damage?
Early liver damage symptoms are vague and affect a range of systems in the body.
In addition to feeling generally unwell, symptoms may include:
- Stomach ache
- Vomiting and nausea
- Lack of appetite
It can be easy for a person to mistake the first symptoms as the effects of an upset stomach or general malaise. However, if these symptoms are not diagnosed or treated, especially if you continue to drink alcohol, it can lead to faster progression of liver disease over time.
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Drinking a large amount of alcohol can cause a build-up of fatty acids in the liver. Sometimes heavy drinking in a short period of time, even less than a week, can cause this. There are usually no symptoms and fatty liver can often be reversed if the individual abstains from alcohol from then on.
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Alcoholic hepatitis is a syndrome of alcoholic liver disease. Hepatitis is a general term for swelling and inflammation of the liver, regardless of the cause.
If a person continues to drink alcohol, it will lead to persistent hepatitis. This can happen after many years of heavy drinking. It can also occur acutely during periods of excessive alcohol consumption. Common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:
- Jaundice or yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin
- Enlargement of the liver known as hepatomegaly
Features of the Systemic Inflammatory Response
Features of the systemic inflammatory response, including one of two documented sources below:
- Body temperature below 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius) or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius)
- Heart rate above 90 beats per minute
- Respiratory rate greater than 20 breaths per minute
- White blood cell count greater than 12,000 or less than 4,000 per microliter
Alcoholic hepatitis usually progresses to cirrhosis if a person continues to drink alcohol. Reliable source in a person who stops drinking alcohol, but not all liver cirrhosis returns.
Fibrosis – Liver Disease
Fibrosis is the build-up of certain types of proteins in the liver, including collagen. It stands out in most forms of chronic liver disease. To determine the degree of fibrosis, doctors use the Metavir rating system on a scale from A0 to A3:
- A0: no activity
- A1: light activity
- A2: moderate activity
- A3: Vigorous Activity
Mild to moderate forms of fibrosis may be reversible. Metavir also classifies the level of fibrosis from F0 to F3:
- F0: no fibrosis
- F1: fibrosis without scar tissue
- F2: fibrosis with transverse scars
- F3: extensive scarring, but no cirrhosis
- F4: cirrhosis
Cirrhosis – Liver Disease
Cirrhosis occurs when the liver is inflamed for an extended period of time, leading to scarring and loss of function. It can be a life-threatening condition. The damage from cirrhosis is irreversible, but a person can prevent further damage by continuing to avoid alcohol.
Lifelong abstinence can improve liver function, but permanent and severe damage from cirrhosis can mean a person needs a liver transplant to survive.
Because the liver no longer processes toxins properly, a person will be more sensitive to drugs and alcohol. Alcohol consumption speeds up the process of liver damage, reducing the liver’s ability to compensate for existing damage.
Late-stage signs of Liver Damage
Once alcoholic liver disease has developed, the symptoms are easier to spot. The most characteristic signs of advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis or cirrhosis, include:
- Edema or swelling of the lower extremities
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen – ascites
- Fever and chills
- Severe itching of the skis
- Nails that bend excessively – clubbed nails
- Lose a significant amount of weight
- General weakness and muscle atrophy
- Blood in vomit and stool
- Easier bleeding and bruising
- More sensitive reactions to alcohol and drugs
Risk Factors Include in Liver Failure
Several factors increase the risk of alcoholic liver disease. People who drink beer and alcohol are more likely to develop liver disease than people who drink other alcoholic beverages, such as wine.
Women are more susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol, even at the same alcohol consumption as men, so they are more likely to quickly develop cirrhosis, inflammation and liver damage as a result of alcohol.
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According to the American College of Gastroenterology, women who drink more than two drinks a day and men who have had more than three drinks a day for more than 5 years are at increased risk for alcoholic liver disease.
Women who drink a lot of alcohol and are also overweight have a higher risk of developing chronic liver disease. However, obesity is also a risk factor for men.
Having hepatitis C increases your risk, and someone who regularly drinks alcohol and has some form of hepatitis has a higher risk of developing liver disease.
Genetic changes can influence the risk. If a person has changes in the genetic profile of certain enzymes essential for alcohol metabolism, such as ADH, ALDH and CYP4502E1, they have a higher risk of developing alcoholic liver disease.
How to Deal With Alcoholic Liver?
The first step in treating alcoholic liver disease of any level is to eliminate alcohol from the diet.
Abstinence for Liver Recovery
It can help reverse some of the early stages of liver disease. For example, if you stop drinking after a diagnosis of fatty liver, the situation can be reversed within 2 to 6 weeks.
Once a doctor diagnoses a person with alcoholic liver disease at any stage, they will recommend never drinking again. Any conditions that have been reversed usually return once alcohol use is restarted.
Those who regularly drink more than the recommended daily alcohol limit should not stop drinking without medical attention. Quitting alcohol can be life-threatening. Individuals should seek the assistance of a medical professional to safely manage alcohol withdrawal.
Cure With Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and drugs called benzodiazepines can relieve withdrawal symptoms in an alcoholic. People with severe alcohol addiction may be placed in a rehabilitation center for close monitoring.
Ongoing treatment may then be necessary to prevent a relapse in alcohol use. Medications can also prevent relapses, such as:
- Vivitrol (naltrexone)
- Topamax (topiramate)
Change Your Lifestyle
Doctors may also recommend weight loss and smoking cessation, as being overweight and smoking has been shown to worsen alcoholic liver disease. Doctors may also recommend taking a daily multivitamin.
Medications for Liver Recovery
Corticosteroids or pentoxifylline can help reduce inflammation in people with acute alcoholic hepatitis while they are hospitalized.
Other drugs and liver supplements that show treatment potential and are currently being studied include:
- Probiotics and antibiotics
- Stem cell therapy
- Drugs that target the inflammatory pathway
Liver Transplant – The Last Stage
In people with liver failure, the liver stops working completely. This can be the result of advanced liver disease and often means that a liver transplant is the only option for long-term survival. Liver transplantation is a complex procedure that depends on donor availability.
Individuals who can demonstrate alcohol abstinence for at least 6 months prior to the procedure are generally suitable candidates for transplant. Liver transplantation is a last resort. Quitting drinking alcohol and treating this disease early is the best way for a person to increase their chances of reversing or slowing the progression of the disease.
Post-transplant anti-injection medications can increase your risk of developing serious infections and certain types of cancer.
How to Prevent Liver Disease?
To prevent alcoholic liver disease and other conditions related to alcohol consumption, doctors advise people to follow the guidelines of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
The guidelines rank drinking a maximum of one drink a day for women, a maximum of two drinks for men, and only after the age of 21.
One drink equals:
- 12 fluid ounces 5% alcohol beer
- 5 ounces of wine with 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of spirits with 40% alcohol
The NIAAA defines binge drinking as five or more alcoholic drinks for a man or four or more alcoholic drinks for a woman on the same occasion on at least one day in the previous month.
The life expectancy of a person with alcoholic liver disease decreases significantly as the disease progresses.
On average, 1 in 3 people with more advanced stages of liver disease and cirrhosis are still alive after 2 years. When the body can compensate and manage cirrhosis, the typical lifespan is 6 to 12 years. Those with less serious illnesses will live longer if they stop drinking alcohol.
Quitting smoking and controlling body weight are important lifestyle changes people can make to further reduce their risk. If you want to learn more about liver and alcohol, you should explore our blog posts.