Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease
Women are more prone to liver damage from drinking alcohol than men.
Alcohol-induced liver disease, as the name implies, is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol and is a common, but preventable, disease.
There are three primary types of alcohol-induced liver disease, including the following:
- fatty liver
Fatty liver is excessive accumulation of fat inside the liver cells.
Fatty liver is the most common alcohol-induced liver disorder. The liver is enlarged, causing upper abdominal discomfort on the right side.
- alcoholic hepatitis
Alcoholic hepatitis is an acute inflammation of the liver, accompanied by the destruction of individual liver cells and scarring. Symptoms may include fever, jaundice, an increased white blood cell count, an enlarged, tender liver, and spider-like veins in the skin.
- alcoholic cirrhosis
Alcoholic cirrhosis is the destruction of normal liver tissue, leaving non-functioning scar tissue. Symptoms may include those of alcoholic hepatitis, in addition to portal hypertension, enlarged spleen, ascites, kidney failure, confusion, or liver cancer.
Symptoms of alcohol-induced liver disease depend on how much and how long a person has been drinking alcohol. The following are the most common symptoms of alcohol-induced liver disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- enlarged liver
- jaundice - yellowing of the skin and eyes
- increased white blood cell count
- spider-like veins in the skin
- portal hypertension
- enlarged spleen
- ascites - fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity
- kidney failure
The symptoms of alcohol-induced liver disease may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for alcohol-induced liver disease may include the following:
- laboratory tests
- liver function tests - a series of special blood tests that can determine if the liver is functioning properly.
- liver biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope.
Specific treatment for alcohol-induced liver disease will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
The goal of treatment is to restore some or all normal functioning to the liver. Treatment usually begins with abstinence from alcohol. The liver has great restorative power and is often able to repair some of the damage caused by alcohol. In most cases, the only damage it cannot reverse is scarring from cirrhosis.
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