One of the many risks associated with continued, heavy drinking is the possibility of developing alcoholic hepatitis. This is a condition characterised by the inflammation of the liver which results from heavy and long-term consumption of alcohol. If you or your loved one is a heavy drinker, learning about the risks associated with alcoholic hepatitis and what could happen if the problem is ignored is extremely important. Alcohol consumption does damage to the liver, but in less severe cases it is reversible if the individual abstains from drinking as soon as possible. There is some uncertainty about the specific relationship between alcohol and liver damage, and drinking isn’t thought to be the sole cause of alcoholic hepatitis, but there is an undeniable and widely observed link.
Alcohol causes a variety of problems for the liver because breaking it down has toxic by-products. When the individual drinks frequently and heavily, these chemicals cause the liver cells to become inflamed and eventually die. They’re replaced by scar tissue, which slowly covers the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, the final stage of alcoholic liver disease. Many of the specifics about this progression are not known, such as why it doesn’t occur in all heavy drinkers and the exact reason for the damage caused to the liver. Doctors speculate that genetic factors and malnutrition may play a role, and they are certain that the risk of developing alcoholic liver disease increases with the amount of alcohol consumed and the length of the addiction.
The initial stage of alcoholic liver disease is called minimal change or fatty liver. Although this stage doesn’t involve the deterioration of the organ, it is a precursor to more serious issues. This can be shown through liver function tests, but otherwise may go unnoticed. If the individual stops drinking alcohol at this point the liver will repair itself. Alcoholic hepatitis is the next phase of the progression, and it is typically when noticeable symptoms will begin to emerge. The severity of the condition can differ, but it is still reversible if the individual becomes abstinent.
The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis may not appear in very mild cases, but the condition can almost always be identified with a liver function test. The individual might experience nausea, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue, mental confusion, pain in or swelling of the abdomen and jaundice. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and you are a heavy drinker, it is wise to visit your doctor for some tests. Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes caused by the liver leaking a vital chemical into the body. If you or your loved one continues drinking despite having developed alcoholic hepatitis, the condition could progress to cirrhosis – which is irreversible.
Alcoholic hepatitis is the final warning you will receive before you or your loved one’s drinking does lasting damage. If you are concerned about liver damage or alcoholic liver disease, you should seek medical attention. Many alcohol rehab centres have medical staff and psychological counsellors to help you or your loved one abstain from alcohol and minimise physical harm. We have a comprehensive knowledge of the different centres across the country, and we can point you in the right direction for treatment. Our service is completely free, so pick up the phone today and see how we can help you!