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Causes, treatment, and symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Disease

Causes, treatment, and symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Disease

Healthy liver

Alcohol related liver disease is the major cause of long-term liver disease in the western nations as well as the 3rd most general reason behind liver transplants. It is the result of over-consuming alcohol which damages your liver and leads to the build-up of inflammation, scarring, and fats. Please note that it can turn out to be fatal and that is why if diagnosed, you should go for effective treatment as soon as possible. When an individual consumes alcohol thoroughly over the decades, your body begins to replace the healthy tissue of the liver with the scar tissue. Doctors call this situation alcoholic liver cirrhosis. As this disease progresses, as well as more of the healthy liver tissue gets replaced with the scar tissue, the liver will stop proper functioning. 

Furthermore, there are 3 major stages i.e., the initial one, 2nd stage, and the final stage of liver disease, though there is usually an overlap between every stage. 

  1. Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease – Consuming alcohol in high quantities, even for only a few days, can result in the build-up of fats in your liver. 
  2. Alcoholic Hepatitis – Unrelated to infectious hepatitis, this disease is a likely critical condition that can be caused due to alcohol misuse over a longer period. 
  3. Cirrhosis – This is the ARLD (Alcohol-Related Liver Disease) stage where your liver has become relevantly scarred. 

Causes

ARLD takes place after years of consuming quite a heavy amount of alcohol. Over time, a serious liver failure like cirrhosis and scarring can take place as the final phase of the alcoholic liver disease. The disease is quite common among people aged between 40-50 years. Males have a higher chance of getting this disease however, women might develop it after less exposure to alcohol as compared to men. Moreover, a few individuals might have an inherited risk for ARLD. 

Always remember that there are 2 ways of drinking too much (alcohol misuse) can cause this disease – 

  • Drinking over the suggested alcohol limits during several years can result in cirrhosis and hepatitis, the more critical kinds of ARLD. 
  • Consuming a huge amount of alcohol in a short duration of time (binge drinking) can result in Alcoholic fatty liver disease as well as alcoholic hepatitis (less commonly). 

Read Also: Cirrhotic: Considering liver transplant a better option!

Additional Factors

Along with consuming excessive alcohol, other factors can also boost the chances of suffering from Alcoholic Liver Disease such as – 

  • Being female (ladies seem to be more vulnerable as compared to men to dangerous alcohol effects)
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Genetics (problems processing alcohol and alcohol dependence run in families)
  • Having a pre-existing liver condition, like Hepatitis C. 

Symptoms

Once ARLD progresses, the symptoms also become easier to identify. 

The more different later-stage liver disease signs are – 

  • Swelling of your lower limbs, or Edema
  • The yellow tint of whites of your skin and eyes
  • Shivering and fever
  • The build-up of fluid in your abdomen, called ascites
  • Fingernails which excessively curve, called clubbing
  • Quite itchy skin
  • Wasting muscles and general weakness
  • Losing a relevant amount of weight
  • Bruising and bleeding more easily
  • Blood in stools and vomit
  • Extra sensitive reactions to drugs and alcohol

Once the Symptoms of alcohol related liver disease are noticeable, this condition has attained the advanced stage, as well as visiting the doctor is your significant next step. Moreover, its symptoms depend upon your stage. However, some common ones are – 

  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea
  • Increased thirst
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Lightening or darkening of your skin
  • Weight loss
  • Dark bowel movements
  • Red feet or hands
  • Unusual agitation
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • (In Men) enlarged breasts
  • Bleeding gums

Also, the symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Disease might show up more often after a person goes on binge drinking. 

Treatment

Suffering from acute alcoholic hepatitis? Don’t worry as doctors hold the ability to reverse a few liver disease forms with treatment, however alcoholic liver cirrhosis often can’t be reversed. Still, he/she can suggest treatments that might slow the progress of this disease as well as reduce the symptoms. 

The first and foremost step in this treatment is to assist the person to avoid drinking. Those people who have cirrhosis liver failure are generally so much dependent on alcohol that they may go through crucial health complications in case they attempt to quit without being in a hospital. The doctor can suggest the treatment facility or hospital where an individual can begin his/her journey toward sobriety. 

Other treatments the doctor might use are – 

  • Nutritional Counseling – Don’t forget that alcohol abuse can result in malnutrition. 
  • Medications – Other medicines doctors might prescribe are calcium channel blockers, corticosteroids, antioxidant supplements, (SAMe) S-adenosyl-L-methionine, and insulin. 
  • Liver Transplant – An individual often should be sober for at least 6 months before being considered as the candidate for a liver transplant. 
  • Excess Protein – Often, patients require additional protein in specific forms to assist decrease the chances of developing the brain disease i.e., encephalopathy. 

Provided that you closely observe the Symptoms of ARLD and take necessary action on time for its treatment before it causes major damage, this disease is treatable. However, do not forget that consistent excessive drinking can also reduce your lifespan and that is why you should lessen its consumption as much as you can. 

The suggested regular limits are not more than a single drink in a day for ladies as well as not more than 2 drinks in a day for men. Please note that Cirrhosis further aggravates the condition and can also result in critical complications. If your liver is severely damaged, it can’t heal or get back to the usual function. 

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