What is Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is a serious illness associated with the inflammation of the liver.  The disease is the result of long-term exposure to alcohol.  Prolonged heavy drinking habits can lead to several more health issues like permanent scarring of the liver (liver cirrhosis) and liver failure.

The Liver

The liver is the largest organ in the body and function to removes all toxins from the blood including alcohol. Long-term alcohol consumption damaged the liver, making it scarred, inflamed and fatty. An estimated 35% of long-term alcoholics develop alcoholic hepatitis.

What causes alcoholic hepatitis?

Alcohol gets passed in the liver, the liver processes it. The liver then produces a toxic chemical which damages the liver cells. The injury will lead to the inflammation of the liver and cause alcoholic hepatitis.

While heavy drinkers develop the disease, doctors are not completely certain the main reason for alcoholic hepatitis. Only a small number of heavy drinkers get the disease and it can also develop in moderate drinkers. Other factors play an important key to developing the disease.

Other factors in developing alcoholic hepatitis:


Genetics can also affect how the liver process alcohol. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the disease. This is because the bodies of men and women absorb and process alcohol differently.

Other liver infection

The existence of other liver infection in the body like hepatitis C increased the chance of developing alcoholic hepatitis. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease which affects the liver. Even if the person only drinks moderately, the chances are high in getting the disease.


Alcoholics can also show sign of malnutrition because they eat poorly. Also, alcohol and its byproducts hinder the body from absorbing nutrients. Nutrient deficiency causes cell damage in the liver.

Erratic food intake

Alcoholics does not follow a strict meal plan, they consume alcohol whenever they can. Because of this pattern the body does not get proper nutrients. They usually eat and consume alcohol beyond the usual meal times and the body left to digest too much food.

What are the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis?

Depending on the extent of the damage in the liver, different symptoms may occur. Some of the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:

  • dry mouth
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • abdominal tenderness
  • swelling in the abdomen
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • yellow color stint of the skin or eyes

Alcoholic hepatitis symptoms are like other health issues. It is always best to consult a doctor when these symptoms became clear.

How doctors diagnosed alcoholic hepatitis?

If several symptoms became clear, the doctor can inquire bout the medical history. Alcohol intake is also asked, and how often the patient drinks. The doctor will perform a physical test to check for enlarged liver or spleen. Other test includes:

  • complete blood count (CBC)
  • liver function exam
  • abdominal CT scan
  • ultrasound of the liver

Yet, a doctor can also request for a biopsy if the tests cannot confirm the disease. A biopsy is an invasive medical procedure which involves getting a tissue sample from the liver. It can confirm the presence of alcoholic hepatitis.

Treatment for alcoholic hepatitis

For alcoholic hepatitis patients, it is important to stop drinking. Alcohol abstinence can still reverse liver damage. Even for severe cases, it can help to prevent further damage to the liver.

Treatment for alcoholic hepatitis may include medications that reduce inflammation in your liver and improve liver function. If addiction serves as the main reason for the disease, there are health care facilities that can help.


Doctors can also prescribe medications to reduce the inflammation of the liver. Also, they can prescribe nutrients if the patient appears malnourished.  In severe cases, doctors may recommend a liver transplant. The patient must need to show signs of recovery and will not continue to consume alcohol to receive a new liver.

How can alcoholic hepatitis be prevented?

Alcohol abstinence serves as the best way to prevent the disease. If not possible to avoid drinking, at least try to avert or drink in moderation. Also, try to prevent getting Hepatitis C thru unprotected sex, sharing needles, or other drug paraphernalia.



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