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Alcohol-induced liver disease is common, but can be prevented. There are 3 types. Many heavy drinkers progress through these 3 types over time:
The liver is a large organ that sits up under the ribs on the right side of the abdomen (belly). The liver:
Alcohol-induced liver disease is caused by heavy use of alcohol. The liver’s job is to break down alcohol. If you drink more than it can process, it can become badly damaged.
Fatty liver can happen in anyone who drinks a lot. Alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis are linked to the long-term alcohol abuse seen in alcoholics.
Doctors don’t know why some people who drink alcohol get liver disease while others do not. Research suggests there may be a genetic link, but this is not yet clear.
The effects of alcohol on the liver depend on how much and how long you have been drinking alcohol. These are the most common symptoms and signs:
Alcoholic cirrhosis, all of the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis and
The symptoms of alcohol-induced liver disease may look like other health problems. Always see a doctor for a diagnosis.
Your doctor will do a complete health history and physical exam. Other tests used to diagnose alcohol-induced liver disease may include:
The goal of treatment is to restore some or all normal functioning to the liver.
You must completely stop drinking alcohol. This may involve an alcohol treatment program. Sometimes diet changes are advised, too. The liver is often able to repair some of the damage caused by alcohol so you can live a normal life. The scarring from cirrhosis is not reversible, and when liver tissue loss is severe enough to cause liver failure, most of the damage may be permanent.
In some cases, liver transplant may be considered. But you must complete a rehab program and go through alcohol detox before this is even an option.
About one-third of people with alcohol-induced liver disease have hepatitis C virus. They are also at greater risk for liver cancer.
Nearly half have gallstones.
Those with cirrhosis often get diabetes, ulcers, kidney problems, and severe infections.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.