In order to understand how alcohol leads to liver disease, you must first understand the function of the liver and alcohol’s effects on this function. The liver helps your body break down fat and protein compounds by producing bile which enters the stomach to help the digestive process. It also helps to remove poisons and toxins which enter your body, including alcohol. When you consume alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream through your stomach and intestines. All of the blood from your stomach and intestines then passes through the liver for cleaning before it is circulated around your entire body. However, your liver can only clean a certain amount of alcohol per hour. Therefore, if you consume alcohol faster than your liver can process it, your blood alcohol content level rises.
Consuming too much alcohol can lead to various different liver conditions, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver. These conditions can occur together in the same person, at the same time. Fatty liver is the beginning of hepatitis, in which a large fat build up occurs in the liver of people who drink heavily. By its self, the condition is not really serious and usually reverses its self. However, continued drinking can lead to hepatitis. Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. There are mild to severe cases of hepatitis, with the most severe sometimes causing liver failure, blood clotting problems, coma, and even death. Cirrhosis is the most severe condition of the three, in which regular liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. Scar tissue development is gradual and usually occurs in heavy drinkers of more than ten years. If enough scar tissue develops, it can lead to liver failure and perhaps even death. The scarring of Cirrhosis is usually permanent and cannot be fixed by any current medical procedures.