Alternative Names: Liver disease due to alcohol; Cirrhosis or hepatitis - alcoholic; Laennec's cirrhosis
Alcoholic liver disease involves an acute or chronic inflammation of the liver induced by alcohol abuse.
Alcoholic hepatitis usually occurs after years of excessive drinking. The longer the duration of alcohol use and the greater the consumption of alcohol, the greater the probability of developing liver disease.
Malnutrition develops as a result of empty calories from alcohol, reduced appetite, and malabsorption (inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestinal tract). Malnutrition contributes to liver disease.
The toxicity of ethanol to the liver, individual susceptibility to alcohol-induced liver disease, and genetic factors also contribute to the development of alcoholic liver disease.
Alcoholic liver disease does not affect all heavy drinkers, and women may be more susceptible than men. Drunkenness is not essential for the development of the disease.
In some drinkers, the rate of alcohol metabolism can be high enough to allow for the consumption of large quantities of alcohol without raising the blood alcohol level to detectable concentrations by conventional breath analyzer.
Changes start within the liver as inflammation (hepatitis) and progress to fatty liver and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final phase of alcoholic liver disease. Symptoms may not be present until the disease is relatively advanced.
Serious complications are associated with advanced disease such as alcoholic encephalopathy (damage to brain tissue) and portal hypertension (high blood pressure within the liver).
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
Note: Symptoms vary with the severity of the disease and are usually worse after a recent period of heavy drinking.
This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:
The objective of treatment is to discontinue alcohol, and to provide a high-carbohydrates, high-calorie diet to reduce protein breakdown in the body. Vitamins, especially B1 and folic acid, are associated with improvement.
An alcohol rehabilitation program or counseling may be necessary to break the alcohol addiction. Management of the complications of chronic liver disease may be needed.
The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See alcoholism - support group and liver disease - support group.
Continued excessive drinking is associated with a shorter life expectancy. The probable outcome is poor if drinking continues.
bleeding esophageal varices portal hypertension hepatic encephalopathy
Call your health care provider if symptoms suggestive of alcoholic liver disease develop.
Call your health care provider if symptoms develop after prolonged or heavy drinking or if you are concerned that drinking may be damaging your health.