Alcoholic liver disease is usually a result of too much alcohol, which damages the organ, causing a build up of toxins, inflammation, and fibrosis. Over time, it can be fatal. The condition accounts for about 80% of cirrhosis, a disease in which the liver becomes scarred and cannot be repaired. Some of the other types of liver diseases include hepatitis B and C, and fatty liver.
An alcoholic liver disease generally starts with a few symptoms such as jaundice, itching, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. However, sometimes these symptoms do not go away on their own. Instead, they get worse. Other symptoms can include increased levels of cholesterol, lowered blood pressure, a yellowish color in the skin, an increase in bleeding problems like thrombosis and increased bleeding volume, and stomach or duodenal ulcers. Severe liver damage can cause various problems, which are described below.
Acute alcoholic liver disease takes more time to develop than chronic liver disease, which is caused by long time consumption of alcohol. In the case of acute alcoholic liver disease, the patient may show symptoms in a few days but could recover in a few weeks without any serious treatment. There is an important difference between the two. Acute liver failure results in liver cell death or cell suicide, while acute steatosis (chronic liver disease) results in fibrosis and scarring of liver cells. There is also a difference between alcoholic hepatitis C. In the former, there is an accumulation of free radicals and T-cells in tissues, which cause damage to the cell membrane and damage cellular DNA. In the latter, T-cells and antioxidants destroy abnormal cells.
There are several ways to treat alcoholic liver disease, depending upon the type of liver disease. If the steatosis is mild, surgery and transplantation of a part of liver to a healthy donor is effective in most of the patients. The transplant is usually successful and produces good results in about 75% of the patients. However, in certain cases, due to certain genetic factors, rejection of the graft is higher and this may lead to severe scarring and liver deficiency. It is therefore very important to know more about the possible graft sources before undergoing transplantation.
Alcoholic steatosis is divided into two categories: alcoholic fatty liver disease (also known as cirrhosis of the liver) and alcoholic hepatitis. Both these diseases are progressive and if left untreated can progress to a more advanced stage. Hepatitis can also spread to other parts of the body and can even be fatal. Cirrhosis of the liver is life-threatening and treatment must be aggressive to prolong life.
Some common symptoms of alcoholic liver disease include abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, yellow discoloration of skin and eyes, increased intolerance for alcohol and weight loss. People suffering from alcohol-induced hepatitis may develop either no symptoms at all or very mild symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is not unusual for people with cirrhosis of the liver to experience a form of progressive liver failure. Advanced stage of alcoholic liver disease includes symptoms such as increased chances of developing cancer and hematuria (bleeding).
Alcoholic steatosis is caused by several factors. A diet rich in alcohol and fatty beverages (particularly red wine) increase the risk of developing alcoholic liver disease. Another risk factor for developing alcoholic hepatitis is obesity. Men are more likely to develop alcoholic hepatitis than women. People with diabetes are also at increased risk of developing alcoholic liver disease. Other risk factors for this condition are chronic viral infections, cigarette smoking, increased blood levels of inflammatory cytokines, increased presence of free radicals in the body and alcohol abuse.
Treatment for alcoholic liver disease usually includes abstaining from alcohol or reducing intake. Medications such as Vitamin B6 and D3 may be prescribed. Medical treatments are usually only recommended after patients have been given special diets and herbal treatments. The combination of medication and diet therapy is often the most effective method of treatment.