Alcoholic liver disease is damage to the liver and its function due to alcohol abuse.
Alcoholic liver disease usually occurs after years of drinking too much. The longer the alcohol use has occurred, and the more alcohol that was consumed, the greater the likelihood of developing liver disease.
Other important factors include:
People who drink too much, too often do not get enough healthy foods and nutrients. Poor nutrition may make liver disease worse.
Acute alcoholic hepatitis may be caused by binge drinking (five drinks for men, four drinks for women). It may be life-threatening.
Symptoms vary based on the severity of the disease. They are usually worse after a recent period of heavy drinking.
Symptoms may not be present until the disease is advanced.
General symptoms include:
Skin changes include:
Brain and nervous system symptoms:
Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:
Tests to rule out other diseases include:
The most important part of treatment is to stop using alcohol completely. If liver cirrhosis has not yet occurred, the liver can heal if you stop drinking alcohol.
An alcohol rehabilitation program or counseling may be necessary to break the alcohol addiction. Vitamins, especially B-complex and folic acid, can help reverse malnutrition.
If cirrhosis develops, you will need to manage the complications of cirrhosis. You may need a liver transplant.
See also: Alcoholic neuropathy
You can often ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems.
Continued excessive drinking can shorten your lifespan. The outcome will likely be poor if you keep drinking.
Call your health care provider if:
Discuss your alcohol intake with your doctor. The doctor can counsel you about how much alcohol is safe to drink for your situation.
Liver disease due to alcohol; Cirrhosis or hepatitis - alcoholic; Laennec's cirrhosis
Carithers RL, McClain C. Alcoholic liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ. Feldman: Sleisinger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 84.
Schuppan D, Afdhal NH. Liver cirrhosis. Lancet. 2008;371:838-851.
Reviewed by: George F Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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