Life-threatening liver damage might be caused by drinking alcohol daily. Abstinence from alcohol may help to reverse some of these consequences.
- 1 Alcohol and Liver Damage
- 2 How Alcohol Affects the Liver
- 3 Symptoms of Liver Disease
- 4 Treatment for Liver Disease and Alcoholism
- 5 What Are the Three Stages of Alcoholic Liver Disease?
- 6 How Do I Know if I Have Liver Damage?
- 7 What Is Alcoholic Liver Disease?
- 8 What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Alcohol and Liver Damage
Chronic alcohol abuse is linked with many health issues, including high blood pressure and stroke. The harmful effects of drinking on the liver are well-known. Heavy drinkers have an increased risk of developing Jaundice, cirrhosis, and liver failure, as well as cancer in their livers.
A standard drink has 10g of alcohol, the equivalent of 7 grams per 100ml. For women, eight or more weekly alcoholic beverage consumptions equal binge drinking, while 15 or more weekly alcoholic beverage consumption for males is known as heavy drinking. Even a single binge-drinking episode might result in significant bodily harm, damage, or death.
Inpatient treatment for alcohol addiction, also known as rehabilitation, has been proven to be more successful.
How Alcohol Affects the Liver
The liver is responsible for all of these functions, including the breakdown and filtration of blood-borne pollutants and the production of proteins, enzymes, and hormones that protect us from illness. It also transforms vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals into things our bodies can use. The liver is also in charge of purifying our blood, making bile for digestion, and stockpiling glycogen for energy. The liver manages around 90% of the alcohol ingested. The rest is excreted via urine, sweat, and breath.
It takes your body roughly an hour to break down one alcoholic drink. The amount of time it takes to process alcohol increases with each sip. Blood alcohol levels have a direct influence on how quickly alcohol is processed. The liver can handle only a limited quantity of alcohol at any moment. When someone drinks too much, unprocessed booze circulates through the bloodstream.
The alcohol in the blood begins affecting the heart and brain, resulting in intoxication. Chronic alcohol consumption causes liver cell damage (cirrhosis), alcoholic hepatitis, and cellular mutation leading to liver cancer. Most cases of fatty liver are treated with diet and rest. A few patients, however, require more active treatment. The most common diseases that result from the fatty liver disease include alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Based on the University of Michigan Health System, a safe amount of alcohol is determined by weight, stature, and gender. Women absorb more alcohol from each drink than males do. Hence they are at increased risk of liver damage. Binge drinking (consuming 4 or 5 alcoholic beverages in a row) can harm the liver. Furthermore, binge drinking (drinking 4 or 5 drinks in a row) can also result in liver damage.
It’s important to note that drinking alcohol while taking certain medications might be very harmful to your liver. Never take alcohol and medicines simultaneously without consulting with your doctor first. Certain medicines (such as Acetaminophen) can cause severe liver damage when combined with other drugs. Antibiotics, antidepressants, sedatives, and painkillers.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
When compared to moderate drinkers, heavy drinkers have an increased risk of developing various liver diseases. Fatty liver disease affects up to 20% of heavy drinkers, although generally reversible with sobriety. Alcoholic hepatitis, an illness that causes liver damage and deterioration, can progress to cirrhosis and even death. With abstinence, however, this may be reversed.
Alcoholics who abuse alcohol are more likely to get the liver disease if they acquire an illness or have a genetic predisposition to the condition. People who drink more than two alcoholic beverages each day put themselves at risk of liver damage.
Common symptoms of liver disease include:
- Yellowish skin and eyes (Jaundice) are the first signs of liver disease. It typically results from inflammation and enlargement of the spleen, an organ located just under your rib cage on the right side of your body. As the liver disease worsens, Jaundice appears with any exertion or stress, including eating certain foods that are high in protein. Pain at the right side of your belly button is also a common symptom.
- Fatigue, weakness, and loss of appetite are all common in people with liver disease. As the liver becomes less efficient at doing its job, you may feel tired and sick. You may also lose your appetite because the liver isn’t able to digest food as well as it used to.
- Easy bruising and bleeding, especially from the nose, shows that the liver isn’t producing enough clotting factors. These are proteins that help the blood clot and stop bleeding.
- Confusion, drowsiness, and changes in mental status can be signs of alcohol poisoning. Seek emergency medical assistance if you notice these symptoms in someone who has been drinking.
- An elevated temperature and fever accompanied by chills, nausea, and vomiting can signal a worsening liver disease or even hepatic encephalopathy. This is an uncommon but severe complication of chronic liver disease that affects your brain function.
- The alcohol in the blood begins affecting the heart and brain, resulting in intoxication. Chronic alcohol consumption causes the heart muscle to weaken, resulting in cardiomyopathy. This can lead to heart failure and death. Additionally, alcohol interferes with the electrical signals that control the heart rate and rhythm, which can cause arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Alcohol also increases the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries leading to the brain, triggering a stroke.
- Body aches and pain are common with chronic liver disease. Uncoated aspirin can worsen the condition by causing excessive bleeding. On rare occasions, people with chronic liver failure develop bone marrow problems that result in low levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This develops as a result of a condition called thrombocytopenia.
- Bumps on the skin, bruising easily, and itchy rashes are common in people with chronic liver disease. You might bruise and bleed easily if you bump into something. This is because the levels of protein that help your blood clot stop bleeding decrease as your liver becomes less efficient at removing them from the circulation. In severe cases, the liver doesn’t produce enough albumin, a protein that’s necessary to maintain normal fluid levels in your blood vessels and tissues. This results in edema (fluid retention and swelling) and ascites (fluid accumulation in the belly).
- This condition, Jaundice, is caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. Your skin might take on a yellowish tint, especially in your palms and the soles of your feet. It’s one of the most common signs of liver disease.
Alcohol’s harmful effects on the liver may be prevented. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that women drink one alcoholic beverage per day, whereas males should consume no more than two. There is no such thing as a less dangerous kind of alcoholic beverage.
Treatment for Liver Disease and Alcoholism
If you quit drinking or employ other measures, most forms of liver damage may be reversed.
- Fatty Liver disease –Abstinence is required to reverse it.
- Alcoholic Hepatitis –Abstinence is required to reverse it.
- Cirrhosis –Abstinence is beneficial, but it is typically fatal due to second-degree complications. These secondary consequences include kidney failure and high blood pressure in the vein that delivers blood to the liver. It may compensate with abstinence, but it is sensitive on a case-by-case basis.
- Liver Cancer –Same as cirrhosis
If you have an alcohol problem and signs of liver damage, it’s critical to get treatment right away.
Approximately 15% to 30% of heavy drinkers are diagnosed with cirrhosis every year. However, if they get treatment for their addiction, most of those afflicted survive. Despite this, between 40% and 90% of all 26,000 annual cirrhosis deaths are caused by alcohol consumption.
What Are the Three Stages of Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and fibrosis/cirrhosis are the three stages of liver damage due to prolonged regular heavy alcohol use.
Fatty liver is the earliest of the three. Alcohol consumption elevates triglyceride levels in the bloodstream, especially for obese or has diabetes. This is known as hypertriglyceridemia. The body stores these excess triglycerides in the liver, where they accumulate instead of being processed into energy that’s used to carry out the normal functions of the liver. The cells in the liver become swollen and enlarged. A condition called steatosis.
Alcoholic hepatitis is a more severe stage of liver damage that can develop in people who continue to drink heavily. It’s marked by inflammation and swelling of the liver and an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. In some cases, it may cause death.
Fibrosis is the third stage of alcoholic liver disease. It’s an excessive accumulation of scar tissue that results in loss of function and abnormal structural changes to the liver. It’s also known as cirrhosis. In simple words, Fibrosis is a stage of scar tissue development, resulting in a loss of function and abnormalities to the liver structure.
Alcoholic hepatitis has similar symptoms to acute hepatitis – yellowing of the skin, abdominal pain, fever – but they are more severe and happen much less frequently in those with hepatitis C.
How Do I Know if I Have Liver Damage?
There aren’t always clear-cut symptoms of early liver damage, but some things to look out for include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and urine or stool color changes. A yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, Jaundice is a common sign of liver disease.
Your doctor will perform tests to determine whether your liver is damaged, the severity of it, and how much alcohol you’ve consumed in the past several months. These include an AST (aspartate aminotransferase) test and an ALT (alanine aminotransferase) test, which measures liver enzymes.
These tests should be done regularly for heavy drinkers and alcohol abusers to ensure the liver is functioning correctly. If a high level of liver enzymes is detected in the blood, it may indicate alcoholic steatohepatitis or cirrhosis. A low level of albumin due to malnutrition suggests a worsening prognosis.
What Is Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD) refers to the pathology of the liver as a result of high-level alcohol abuse. The most common cause for ALD is alcoholism, leading to fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis over time.
A healthy individual metabolizes approximately one standard drink per hour, but those who consume more than four drinks at a time will likely develop alcoholic steatohepatitis. One of the issues with an alcohol binge is that it often leads to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, such as decreased thiamine levels (vitamin B1).
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Many risk factors for developing ALD include genetics, ethnicity, sex, and age. Those with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to develop the disease themselves. ALD is most commonly seen in men, although women are increasingly at risk as alcohol abuse rates rise. The condition also tends to occur in middle-aged adults.
A growing number of reports now point to ALD as a significant public health issue worldwide, one that has an especially prominent role among youth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that between 2009 and 2013, 77% of deaths due to chronic liver disease in Americans aged 12-35 years old were a result of ALD.
Do all heavy drinkers develop alcoholic cirrhosis if they don’t quit drinking?
No, not everyone who regularly drinks heavily will develop this form of liver damage. Most people who don’t quit drinking will develop fatty liver disease, and less than 10% will develop alcoholic hepatitis. However, only 30% of heavy drinkers never get cirrhosis or severe liver damage.
How much alcohol must you drink to get cirrhosis?
It’s not the amount that causes the damage; it’s the duration. As long as you maintain a steady and heavy pattern of alcohol use, it’s the habit that’s responsible for your health problems rather than the amount you drink in one sitting or a given week.
What percentage of people who have alcoholic cirrhosis die within five years?
The 5-year survival rate for those with cirrhosis is about 50%. This means that about half of people who have the disease will live at least five more years, although this number may vary depending on their health and how well they are managed. Treatment for cirrhosis can improve the prognosis, but it’s essential to catch the disease early for the best chance at long-term survival.