Alcoholic Liver Disease

Alcoholic liver disease occurs due to an acute or chronic inflammation of the liver due to alcohol abuse. This disease usually occurs after a prolonged use of alcohol. In the United States 10% of men and 3% of women suffer from problems related to alcoholic consumption.

The occurrence of the disease depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and the duration it is consumed in. The greater the duration and greater the amount leads to a greater chance for liver disease to occur.

Other factors include the toxicity of ethanol to the liver, susceptibility to the disease, and genetic factors. Studies have shown that women may be more susceptible than men. The disease starts as inflammation (hepatitis) and progresses to fatty liver and cirrhosis. Alcoholism generally leads to three pathologically different liver diseases. They are the fatty liver (Steatosis), hepatitis and cirrhosis.

The disease will not show any symptoms until it advances. Complications that arise are alcoholic encephalopathy and portal hypertension.

The symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, jaundice, abdominal pain, fever, ascites, weight gain, mental confusion, excessive thirst, dry mouth and fatigue.

Other symptoms are vomiting blood, bloody bowel movements, paleness, fainting, lethargic movement, fluctuating mood, impaired judgment and confusion.

Liver function tests and liver biopsy are the common tests done to detect the disease. Treatment includes the discontinuation of alcoholic use, providing high calorie, high carbohydrate diet to break down the protein present in the patient's body. Counseling and rehabilitaion may prove necessary for the patients.

Liver transplants become necessary if the situation advances to cirrhosis. Once the patient becomes medically stable, there is a need to abstain from drinking. Although stopping drinking may result in the reversal of fatty liver and hepatitis, liver cirrhosis may continue, but progressive liver deterioration can be checked.