As the name suggests, alcoholic liver disease is caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol. Usually, it occurs after years of alcohol abuse, though sometimes binge drinking too can cause this condition. Too much of alcohol damages the liver tissues and causes malabsorption. Now, malabsorption or poor absorption of nutrients contributes to malnutrition, which in turn can cause liver disease. Genetic factors too can play a role in the development of this disease. Some people can also be more susceptible to develop alcoholic liver disease. Alcoholic liver disease is progressive and can be of three types, depending on the degree of liver damage. These are known as alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. The alcoholic liver disease symptoms can vary to a great extent, depending on the specific type or the stage of the condition. These symptoms, as well as the treatment options for alcoholic liver diseases are discussed below.
Alcoholic Liver Disease Signs and Symptoms
In the early stage, alcoholic liver disease may not exhibit any symptoms. As the disease progresses, some vague and non-specific symptoms can be observed. Symptoms of the disease can differ greatly depending on the stage. In the case of fatty liver, there may not be any specific symptoms other than an enlarged liver. A slightly enlarged liver is one of the most commonly observed symptoms of this condition. Fatty liver or alcoholic fatty liver is associated with the accumulation of fats in the liver. It is a reversible condition and is usually not associated with deterioration in liver functions.
If the alcoholic liver disease progresses and reaches the stage of alcoholic hepatitis, it can produce a few symptoms. In this stage, the most common symptoms are abdominal pain, especially in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss. Also jaundice, ascites or build up of fluid in the abdomen can be some other symptoms that can appear, when the liver fails to perform its normal activities.
Alcoholic liver disease can cause liver cirrhosis, wherein scar tissues and nodules can develop in the liver. Cirrhosis is a serious disease that severely affects the liver functions, which can manifest in several alcoholic liver disease symptoms like, jaundice, bleeding problems, easy bruising and fluid or water retention in the legs and the abdomen. Apart from these, some other signs are dry mouth, excessive thirst, frequent urination, abnormally dark or light skin color, presence of blood in vomit, paleness and bloating. In the severe cases, the liver can fail to remove toxins from the blood, which can lead to the condition known as hepatic encephalopathy. The signs and symptoms of this condition are confusion, mood swings or changes in personality, reduced or altered consciousness and poor cognitive functioning.
Alcoholic Liver Disease Treatment
Abstinence from alcohol is the key for the success of alcoholic liver disease treatment. In many instances, such as in the case of fatty liver, abstinence can help to reverse the condition. Along with alcohol abstinence, it is also important to follow a balanced and nutritious diet, rich in vitamin B and folic acid to ensure speedy recovery. Even in the case of alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis, avoidance of alcohol is essential for the success of treatment. Along with alcohol abstinence and a nutritious diet, physicians can recommend certain medications for the treatment of advanced alcoholic liver disease. As for example, diuretics can be given to control fluid accumulation and ascites. Other medications that are used for controlling the symptoms and complications associated with alcoholic liver disease are, beta blockers and lactulose. But, if the liver function continues to deteriorate even after appropriate treatment, then liver transplant may be required to be done.
Hope by now you have got a fair idea about alcoholic liver disease symptoms and treatment. Early identification of the symptoms of this condition can ensure prompt treatment, which in turn can increase the chances of recovery. However, along with treatment, it is equally important to avoid the consumption of alcohol. If alcoholism is the problem, then one can take the help of alcohol rehabilitation programs, as well as counseling.