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Alcohol and Liver Disease

When alcohol enters the body, the liver breaks it down so it can be eradicated from your body. If you ingest more alcohol than the liver is capable of processing, an imbalance can occur, wounding the liver by disrupting its typical breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fats. This is why alcohol and liver disease are so closely related.

The ingestion of alcohol has three types of liver disease that are related to it. Fatty liver happens in nearly all people who drink heavily. The condition will get better after an individual ceases drinking. Alcoholic hepatitis is when the liver becomes inflamed; up to 35 percent of heavy drinkers get this disease. The symptoms of alcohol hepatitis include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal aches, jaundice, and fever. The milder type of alcoholic hepatitis can last for years, resulting in progressive liver damage. If the individual ceases drinking, the damage may be fixable. In its chronic form, the disease may happen at once, after binge drinking, rapidly causing life-threatening complications.

Another example of the close association of alcohol and liver disease is alcoholic cirrhosis, which is the most dangerous type of alcohol-related liver disease. Around 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers get cirrhosis of the liver, generally after 10 or more years of heavy drinking. The symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver are similar to the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis. The damage from cirrhosis is not fixable; it is a disease that has claimed many lives. However, if the individual ceases drinking, the condition may stabilize.

The progression often sees heavy drinkers going from the fatty liver stage to alcoholic hepatitis and gradually to alcoholic cirrhosis; however, this progression depends on the patient. The chance of getting cirrhosis of the liver is especially high for individuals who drink heavily and have an additional chronic liver disease (e.g. viral hepatitis C).

Alcohol and liver disease usually manifest after several years of heavy drinking. Once the symptoms appear, the condition can be perilous and life threatening. To stand a chance at living, the individual must decide to stop drinking. A physician can suggest diet changes and specific vitamin supplements to assist your liver in recuperating from the alcohol-related damage. Certain medications may be required to manage the damage done to the liver. In advanced cases, such as alcoholic cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be the only available treatment. Individuals who are active alcoholics are disqualified as appropriate organ recipients.

The issue of alcohol and liver disease can be helped if one stops drinking, but to stop drinking, the individual needs help. Participating in an alcohol recovery program is a good place to start. One of the best resources is an alcoholic support group (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous). It is also important to note that to successfully recuperate from liver disease, the individual has to remain sober. If the individual does not cease drinking, his outlook is poor, and he may suffer many life-threatening health issues.

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