Alcohol liver disease is, sadly, well-known in our country. One kind is better known than the other two, but they all affect many people.
How does the liver process alcohol? It breaks down alcohol so that your body can eliminate it. If you consume more than your liver is able to process, the imbalance that results can injure your liver by not allowing it to do its normal breaking down of carbohydrates, fats and protein.
There are three types of alcohol liver disease. Fatty liver is caused by a buildup of cells of fat within the liver. There are generally no symptoms, even though the liver could be enlarged. Sometimes, victims will experience upper abdominal discomfort. Almost all heavy drinkers develop fatty liver, but it will improve if and when they stop drinking.
Alcoholic hepatitis is also caused by alcohol. Liver disease of this type is found in almost thirty-five percent of people who drink heavily. The symptoms are jaundice, fever, abdominal tenderness and pain, vomiting, nausea and loss of appetite. If the victim only has the mild form of this disease, it may last for years, and during this time will cause more liver damage. This damage may be reversible, assuming that the victim stops drinking. The severe form of alcoholic hepatitis may come on suddenly, usually after a bout of binge drinking, and the complications can be life-threatening.
Alcoholic cirrhosis is easily the most serious form of alcohol-induced liver disease. In this disease, the normal tissue in the liver is replaced by scar tissue. Between ten and twenty percent of heavy drinkers will develop cirrhosis, and it usually occurs after more than ten years of drinking. Cirrhosis’ symptoms are much like those of alcoholic hepatitis. The damage that cirrhosis causes is not reversible, and it can threaten your life if you keep drinking. Your condition may or may not stabilize if you quit drinking.
Quite a few people who drink heavily will contract fatty liver disease that will progress to alcoholic hepatitis and then to cirrhosis, though the actual incidence of progression may vary from person to person. Alcohol liver disease of one type or another is probable if you drink heavily, and the risk for developing cirrhosis is especially high for drinkers who already have another liver ailment like viral hepatitis C.
The complications of alcohol-induced liver disease usually begin to make themselves known after a period of years in which the victim drinks heavily. Some of these include high blood pressure in your liver, accumulation of abdominal fluids, an enlarged spleen, bleeding from esophageal veins, liver cancer, kidney failure and changes in mental function, including possible coma. To be safe, it’s best not to engage in heavy drinking. If you already do drink, the safest course of action is to stop drinking, even if some damage cannot be reversed.
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