Alcoholic liver disease is caused due to excess intake of alcohol for a prolonged period. It is a common cause of liver disease, especially in developed countries. In the absence of medical intervention, the condition may lead to life-threatening complications. Accumulation of fat, inflammation, and scarring in the liver occurs in alcoholic liver disease. Alcoholic liver disease is also one of the major reasons for liver transplantation.
What Are The Types Of Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Based on the progression of the disease and the severity of symptoms, alcoholic liver disease is divided into the following three types:
Fatty Liver: Also known as steatosis, fatty liver is the initial stage of alcoholic liver disease. The condition is characterized by the accumulation of a high quantity of fat in the liver. This results in the reduced functional capacity of the liver cells. This condition occurs during the initial years of heavy alcohol consumption. Prognosis is excellent and the condition is reversible when intake of alcohol is completely stopped.
Alcoholic hepatitis: This the second stage of alcoholic liver disease. The liver cells in this condition rapidly degenerate due to inflammation in the liver. This condition may progress to cause liver cirrhosis or liver failure if alcohol intake is not stopped. A patient suffering from alcoholic hepatitis commonly suffers from jaundice.
Liver cirrhosis: This the third and final stage of alcoholic liver disease. This condition is irreversible and causes permanent scarring on healthy liver tissues. This condition is considered serious and life-threatening.
What Are The Causes Of Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Over consumption of alcohol results in alcoholic liver disease. The longer and more a person consumes alcohol, more is the risk of getting alcoholic liver disease. Alcoholic liver disease is more common in men than in women. Genetic factors also affect the occurrence of this condition.
What Are The Symptoms Of Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Following are the symptoms experienced by the patients suffering from alcoholic liver disease:
- Abdominal pain
- Spider-web veins
- Unintentional weight loss
- Loss of appetite
As the disease progresses and becomes severe, patient experiences following symptoms:
- Venous bleeding
- Enlargement of spleen
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
- Shrinking of testicles
How The Diagnosis Of Alcoholic Liver Disease Is Done?
Diagnosis of fatty liver: Fatty liver is generally asymptomatic and is diagnosed during the liver function tests conducted during a routine checkup. There is no blood test exclusively to indicate fatty liver. Imaging techniques such as ultrasound, CT scan or MRI helps identify the fatty liver. Fatty liver is also caused due to various other diseases or conditions and thus a thorough evaluation of patient’s alcohol intake is done to link fatty liver to alcoholic liver disease.
Diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis: This stage is diagnosed based on physical examination, blood tests, and imaging techniques. A liver biopsy may also be done in some cases.
Diagnosis of cirrhosis: This stage is diagnosed based on classical signs and symptoms related to end-stage liver disease.
What Are The Treatment options For Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Treatment depends upon the stage of the disease.
Following are the general treatment options:
- Lifestyle modifications such as abstinence from alcohol, healthy diet, and vaccination.
- Medications including antibiotics, diuretics, Vitamin K and medicines for managing mental diseases such as confusion.
- Treating enlarged veins through endoscopic procedures
- Draining the fluid from the abdominal cavity, a process known as paracentesis
- Liver transplant in end-stage liver disease
What Are The Complications Of Alcoholic Liver Disease?
Alcoholic liver disease may lead to the following complications:
- Liver cancer
- Renal failure
- Hepatic encephalopathy
- Bacterial infection
- Esophageal varices