The liver is the largest internal body organ and vital to several body functions, including alcohol metabolism. Sadly, alcohol intake causes the death of liver cells, but the cells regenerate over time. However, excessive and regular alcohol intake can overwhelm the liver, leading to Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease (AILD).
This condition occurs in different stages, causing a wide range of stage-specific symptoms. The symptoms are usually inconspicuous until the liver becomes severely damaged.
Stages of Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease
Three main stages of alcohol-induced liver disease occur, but there is an overlap between e ach stage in some cases. The three phases include:
Alcohol Fatty Liver Disease
Alcohol consumption for only a few days can lead to the accumulation of fats in the liver , a condition called alcoholic fatty liver acid (the first stage of alcohol- induce d liv er disease).
This stage rarely causes symptoms but indicates a harmful level of drinking. Fatty liver disease is reversible, and abstinence from alcohol for two weeks can normalize the liver cell.
Alcoholic hepatitis is different fr om infectious hepatitis. It often results from prolonged alcohol intake. Alcoholic hepatitis often gives the first noticeable sign of liver damage from alcohol.
In a few cases, alcoholic hepatitis develops due to a large amount of alcohol consumption withi n a short time. Liver damage from mild alcoholic hepatitis is reversible with complete avoidance of alcohol.
Severe alcoholic hepatitis is life-threatening and responsible for several deaths yearly. Most people suffering from liver damage find out about t he condition at this stage.
The liver is significantly scarred in this stage, but symptoms may not occur. Cirrhosis is often irreversible, but avoiding alcohol can prevent further liver damage and significantly increase life expectancy.
A cont inuous intake of alcohol in people with alcohol-related cirrhosis results in a reduced survival rate.
Symptoms of alcohol-induced liver disease are often absent until the later stages of the condition. When symptoms do occur in the early stages , they include:
Loss of appetite
General feeling of malaise
Advancements in the condition can lead to the following se vere symptoms:
Muscle atrophy and weakness
Significant weight loss
Jaundice – the yellowing of the white part of the eyes and skin
Edema – swelling in the feet and ankles from fluid accumulation
Blotchy red palms
Increased sensitivity to drugs and alcohol
Increased risk and frequency of gum and nose bleeding
Internal bleeding resulting in black or bloody vomit
Trouble sleeping, memory problems, and confusion
No specific treatment is available for alcohol-induced liver disease, but avoiding alcohol for your remaining lifetime can reduce t he risk of further liver damage.
If you are addicted to alcohol, stopping alcohol intake may be difficult, but you can get medical support to stop alcohol consumption gradually.
If the liver is completely compromised, a liver transplant may be necessary. A liver transplant is a preferred treatment option when complications arise from cirrhosis, even with alcohol cessation.
In the last decade, deaths from alcohol-induced liver disease have increased considerably. Typical complications fro m alcohol-induced liver disease include:
Fluid accumulation in the abdomen occurring alongside kidney failure
Accumulation of toxins in the brain (encephalopathy)
Alcohol abuse has several adverse effects on health and has become a leading cause of death. If you notice any symptoms of alcohol-induced liver disease, ensure you seek urgent medical care and avoid consuming alcohol.