Alcoholic Liver Disease

Alcoholic liver disease is damage to the liver and its function due to alcohol abuse. Sometimes this form of liver disease is also referred to as Cirrhosis or hepatitis – alcoholic; Laennec’s cirrhosis.

Causes

Alcoholic liver disease occurs after years of heavy drinking. Alcohol can cause inflammation in the liver, which over time, can cause scarring and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final phase of alcoholic liver disease.
Alcoholic liver disease does not occur in all heavy drinkers. The chances of getting liver disease increase the longer you have been drinking and the more alcohol you consume. You do not have to get drunk for the disease to happen.
The disease seems to be more common in some families. Women may be more likely to have this problem than men.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary, based on how bad the disease is. You may not have symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms tend to be worse after a period of heavy drinking.

Digestive symptoms include:

  • Pain and swelling in the abdomen
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth and increased thirst
  • Bleeding from enlarged veins in the walls of the lower part of the esophagus (tube that connects your throat to your stomach)

Skin problems such as:

  • Yellow color in the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes (jaundice)
  • Small, red spider-like veins on the skin
  • Very dark or pale skin
  • Redness on the feet or hands
  • Itching

Brain and nervous system symptoms include:

  • Problems with thinking, memory, and mood
  • Fainting and lightheadedness
  • Numbness in legs and feet

Exams and Tests

A number of tests could be ordered by your physician to diagnose your symptoms which may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Liver biopsy or FibroScan
  • Liver function tests

Tests to rule out other diseases include:

  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Blood tests for other causes of liver disease
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen

Treatment

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 may need to manage the complications of cirrhosis. You may need a liver transplant if there has been a lot of liver damage.

For more information visit the Digestive CARE Center of Excellent CARE In Liver, Biliary and Pancreatic Diseases

Contact Information

General Information: 954.344.2522
Toll Free: (877) FL GI DOC / (877) 354-4362
Office hours: 9 am to 5 pm
Monday through Friday