What is alcoholic liver disease?

Alcoholic liver disease is long-term damage to the liver from extensive alcohol use, leading to loss of liver function. The more alcohol consumed on a regular basis, and the longer the alcohol use lasts, the greater your risk of developing alcoholic liver disease.

Alcoholic Liver Disease Spotlight

Alcohol can damage the liver, leading to inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis) and swelling of the liver. Over time, this inflammation and damage progress to form scar tissue, resulting in cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis of the liver is the end stage of alcoholic liver disease.

Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease include abdominal pain, tenderness, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), fatigue, and nausea. After cirrhosis has developed, fluid buildup (edema) in the legs and fluid collection in the abdomen (ascites) are common. Bleeding problems may also occur. Malnutrition is a common complication.

Alcoholic liver disease is a serious condition that will continue to get worse if alcohol consumption is not discontinued, along with other essential treatment. Late-stage symptoms can also include confusion and mental status changes, excitability, impaired memory, and difficulty with movement.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as constant weakness, dizziness, problems with thinking and memory, hallucinations, mood changes (especially agitation), extreme fatigue, fainting, fever (especially if combined with a swollen abdomen), vomiting (possibly with blood), numbness or tingling in the limbs, or sluggish or dragging movements.

Seek prompt medical care if you drink alcohol and experience any of the following symptoms, including pain or swelling in your abdomen or legs, dry mouth and excessive thirst, skin color changes, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, constant fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, or yellow skin or eyes. Also seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for alcoholic liver disease but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of alcoholic liver disease?

Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease affect multiple body systems, including the skin, gastrointestinal system, brain and nervous system, and the blood. The most serious symptoms are related to encephalopathy (brain disorder) and affect levels of consciousness, memory, and cognitive abilities.... Read more about alcoholic liver diseasesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes alcoholic liver disease?

Alcoholic liver disease is caused by long-term, extensive alcohol use. Not everyone who consumes a lot of alcohol gets alcoholic liver disease, but the more alcohol consumed on a regular basis, and the longer the alcohol use lasts, the greater your risk of developing alcoholic liver disease.... Read more about alcoholic liver diseasecauses

TREATMENTS

How is alcoholic liver disease treated?

The first and most crucial step in treatment is to completely discontinue your consumption of alcohol. If cirrhosis (scarring) has not yet begun, abstaining from alcohol actually can allow the liver to heal.... Read more about alcoholic liver diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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