Alcoholic liver disease or ALD is a major health problem worldwide. A great percentage of the global population is moderate to heavy drinkers, and a good portion develops ALD. A person is considered a heavy drinker if they consume more than fifteen (for men)/eight (for women) alcoholic beverages in a week.
What is alcoholic liver disease?
The liver is one of the most complex organs of the human body, with over 500 crucial functions. Some functions are protein and hormone production, filtering of blood toxins, storing energy, and blood cholesterol and sugar regulation.
Overconsumption of alcohol damages the liver, causing ALD. The liver becomes scarred and inflamed with excessive fat buildup. It causes the onset of several chronic liver diseases, some of which can be fatal. The liver is highly effective at regenerating and repairing itself. However, when a liver starts getting damaged, oftentimes, it takes a long time to become noticeable, and by the time the damage is found, it becomes incurable.
What are the different stages of alcoholic liver disease?
Alcoholic liver disease has three stages.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease: The first stage of alcoholic liver disease is when fat starts to accumulate around the patient’s liver. Patients at this stage can be cured by withdrawing alcohol from their diet.
Acute alcoholic hepatitis: At this stage, the liver gets inflamed or swollen due to excessive alcohol abuse. The outcome of this stage depends on the severity of the patient’s liver damage. While in a few cases, the damage can be reversed via treatment, more severe cases lead to liver failure.
Alcoholic cirrhosis: Cirrhosis is the most severe form of alcoholic liver disease, where the liver becomes damaged and scarred from excessive alcohol abuse. At this stage, the liver damage cannot be reversed and may lead to liver failure.
What are the signs of alcoholic liver disease?
A person with a damaged liver will experience a range of vague symptoms, affecting several bodily functions. A few of the early signs of liver damage are:
- Abdomen pain
- Increased thirst
- Legs and abdomen swelling
- Abnormal weight loss
- Darkening or lightening of the skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
All of these symptoms are very common, and people often fail to recognise the early signs of liver damage. They can be easily misdiagnosed as signs of general stomach issues or uneasiness. Without any proper diagnosis and treatment, this could lead to increased progression of liver damage with time.
If someone has progressive liver damage, they might show the following symptoms that are more distinctive and easier to recognise:
- Constant fever and shivering
- Blood in vomit and stools
- Oedema, or swelling of the lower limbs
- Ascites (buildup of fluid in the abdomen)
- Fatigue and general weakness
- Extremely itchy skin
- Nail clubbing (abnormal curving of fingernails)
- Abnormal and abrupt weight loss
- More heightened reactions to alcohol or drug use
When a person shows any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is more likely that their condition has reached an advanced stage. They should immediately visit their nearest hospital or physician, get diagnosed properly, and start treatment.
What are the treatment procedures available for alcoholic liver diseases?
To treat any kind of alcoholic liver disease, the first and foremost step is to remove alcohol from the patient’s diet. Patients with initial stages of liver damage can recover fully by strictly abstaining from alcohol. Studies have shown that patients with fatty liver disease were sometimes able to reverse their condition by completely removing alcohol from their diet, surprisingly, within 2 to 6 weeks.
If a person is ever diagnosed with any alcoholic liver disease at any stage, it is highly recommended that they never resume drinking under any circumstances. Any conditions that were reversed earlier via treatment will likely occur again.
What are the risk factors of consuming alcohol?
Women’s bodies digest alcohol relatively slower than men’s bodies. So, women face a higher risk of getting alcoholic liver diseases. Studies also suggest that people who drink beer and liquor are more likely to get alcoholic liver disease compared to those who consume other alcoholic beverages like wine.
A regular drinker with hepatitis C or other types of hepatitis in their past has an increased chance of getting affected by liver disease.
What is the diagnosis procedure for alcoholic liver disease?
If someone shows persistent signs of alcoholic liver disease, they should consult a physician immediately. A damaged liver can be caused by an ailment other than alcoholic liver disease. The physician will prescribe the following tests to find out about the health of the liver and rule out other diseases:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Liver function test (LFT), including liver enzyme tests
- Abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Liver biopsy
What is an alcohol blood test?
An alcohol test is performed to measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s body. After drinking, alcohol gets absorbed into the blood, and its levels can be measured easily. A physician recommends an alcohol blood test to know whether a person is drunk. If a person shows a disturbed mindset, confusion, lack of control or erratic behaviour, a physician may recommend an alcohol test to find out the reason for such behaviour. This test is done via a simple blood collection from the patient’s vein in the arm.
To prevent alcoholic liver diseases caused by the consumption of excessive alcohol, people are advised to follow their national guidelines for proper limits on alcohol consumption. When someone with a habit of drinking shows any signs of liver damage, it is best to consult a physician. The physician will advise proper diagnostic tests and treatment. You can contact your nearest SRL Diagnostics for accurate and authentic test results. SRL offers high-quality, accurate test results at affordable prices via highly specialised technologies.
SRL Diagnostics has been providing superior quality diagnostics services for a long period. They have a very efficient network of accredited labs (44 NABL and CAP-accredited) with a huge number of collection points.