Alcoholic liver disease occurs when a significant amount of damage has been done to the liver due to excessive alcohol consumption over a long enough period of time. There is no certain amount of time it takes to develop this condition, though it typically happens over a course of years. Those who are heavy regular drinkers are far more likely to develop liver disease than moderate or non-drinkers. In fact, the biggest risk factor associated with liver disease is alcohol abuse.
While it’s true that not all heavy drinkers end up developing liver disease, it is fairly common among people with this particular problem. Your chances of developing liver disease only increase the longer you drink and the more alcohol you consume. It is a common misconception that one needs to get drunk to develop alcoholic liver disease. Statistically, women are more likely to develop this condition than men.
There are certain symptoms associated with alcoholic liver disease that you should be aware of, especially if you are a drinker. Fatigue and loss of energy are among the most common symptoms, though there is also loss of appetite and weight loss along with nausea or belly pain. Some of the more severe symptoms of this condition that begin to appear as it gets worse include confusion or problems thinking, redness of the palms of the hands, easy bruising and abnormal bleeding, and others.
When you go to a doctor to get examined, your doctor will look for a number of things, including an enlarged liver, small testicles, swollen abdomen, widened veins in the abdomen wall, and yellow eyes or skin (jaundice). Some of the different tests that a doctor can perform when looking for alcoholic liver disease include a complete blood count (CBC), liver biopsy, liver function tests, and coagulation studies. Some of the tests to rule out other diseases include an abdominal CT scan, blood tests for other causes of liver disease, and an ultrasound of the abdomen.
There are a number of different treatments that can be quite effective in minimizing the harmful effects of alcoholic liver disease. Those who want to avoid getting this disease in the first place can start drinking less or stop drinking altogether. It is also important to eat a healthy diet that is low in salt. Make sure that you get vaccinated for diseases like hepatitis A and B when needed as well.
A doctor may prescribe those with alcoholic liver disease certain medications like water pills to get rid of the fluid buildup, as well as vitamin K and antibiotics for infections. There is no cure for alcoholic liver disease, but there are ways to manage and minimize the symptoms for a lot of people.
Alcoholic liver disease is an extremely serious condition that has the potential to be fatal if it is gone unchecked for long enough. This disease affects millions of people all over the world, and it is entirely preventable.