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Alcohol-induced liver disease is common, but can be prevented. There are 3 types. Many heavy drinkers progress through these 3 types over time:
The liver is a large organ that sits up under the ribs on the right side of the belly (abdomen). The liver:
Alcohol-induced liver disease is caused by heavy use of alcohol. The liver’s job is to break down alcohol. If you drink more than it can process, it can become badly damaged.
Fatty liver can happen in anyone who drinks a lot. Alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis are linked to the long-term alcohol abuse seen in alcoholics.
Healthcare providers don’t know why some people who drink alcohol get liver disease while others do not. Research suggests there may be a genetic link, but this is not yet clear.
The effects of alcohol on the liver depend on how much and how long you have been drinking alcohol. These are the most common symptoms and signs:
Alcoholic cirrhosis, all of the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis and
The symptoms of alcohol-induced liver disease may look like other health problems. Always see a doctor for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will do a complete health history and physical exam. Other tests used to diagnose alcohol-induced liver disease may include:
The goal of treatment is to restore some or all normal functioning to the liver.
You must completely stop drinking alcohol. This may involve an alcohol treatment program. Sometimes diet changes are advised, too. The liver is often able to fix some of the damage caused by alcohol so you can live a normal life. The scarring from cirrhosis is sometimes partially reversible, and when liver tissue loss is severe enough to cause liver failure, most of the damage may be permanent. However, the damage won't have any chance of reversing if you continue to drink alcohol.Different treatments are needed for different complications and symptoms of alcoholic liver disease. For example, dietary changes, vitamins, salt restriction, procedures to shrink swollen veins in the digestive tract, water pills (diuretics), medicines to treat confusion, and anti-inflammatory medicines.
In some cases, a liver transplant may be considered. But you must complete a rehab program and go through alcohol detox before this is even an option.
About 30% of people with alcohol-induced liver disease have hepatitis C virus. Others have hepatitis B virus. Your provider will test you for both and treat you if needed.
People with alcohol-induced liver disease are also at greater risk for liver cancer.
About 50% have gallstones.
Those with cirrhosis often develop kidney problems, intestinal bleeding, fluid in the belly, confusion, liver cancer, and severe infections.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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