Alcohol and Liver Damage

Alcohol and liver damage often go hand in hand, especially for those with excessive alcohol usage or alcoholism. Alcoholic liver disease comes with drinking too much alcohol and liver damage over a period of time. The longer the drinking, the more the likelihood of liver damage occurring.

Serious issues can result from alcohol and liver damage. Excessive alcohol and liver damage typically occurs after drinking too much for an extended period of time, usually over the course of a few years. Many that drink profusely for years and years are very likely candidates for some kind of liver damage like hepatitis and cirrhosis. There are a few other factors aside from excessive and heavy drinking that can lead to a person's likelihood of developing one or both of these serious liver damage diseases. 

Causes of Alcohol and Liver Damage:

When trying to assess the risks you face for liver damage from excess drinking, or even if you are a moderate drinker, it is also important to realize that there are other factors that play a role in whether or not you will have liver diseases like cirrhosis. For example, alcoholic liver disease can often be genetically related. Those with other family members that have issues with alcoholism, might also be more prone to taking liver damage from drinking in excess, while others may not have an issue. It is also important to note that the disease does not just occur in heavy drinkers. For drinkers that drink moderately, but do so for a long period of time over a regular basis, are also at risk for alcohol and liver damage. You do not have to get drunk every day for the disease to develop. Women are also more susceptible than men to taking liver damage.  One huge factor that leads many drinkers to developing liver damage is that people who drink too much, often do not eat healthy or get the appropriate amount of nutrients they need to sustain a health lifestyle. This can put them at an increased risk for hepatitis or cirrhosis. Binge drinking, drinking four or five drinks, may be life-threatening. 

Symptoms of Alcohol and Liver Damage:

Depending on the stage of liver damage, there are various symptoms that occur. It is important to watch out for these symptoms because if left untreated, liver damage can get so severe it can cause many different health issues including early death. It is also important to know that symptoms may never even become present until the disease is advanced. That is why if you are a heavy drinker, have been drinking excessively for a long period of time, or have family history of liver disease, to consult a doctor or have your liver enzyme levels checked regularly. Inflammation of the liver during the early stages of hepatitis is usually one of the first symptoms to indicate there is a problem with the liver. Other general symptoms of liver damage include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth, increased thirst
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the legs and abdomen
  • Weight loss
  • Skin changes to abnormally dark or light
  • Redness may appear on hands/feet
  • Small blood vessels become apparent on the skin
  • Yellow coloring of the skin (jaundice)
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Bloody or dark bowel movements (melena)
  • Vomiting blood
  • Brain and nervous system issues like decreased alertness or awareness
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired short - or long-term memory
  • Pain and tingling in the arms/legs

Testing for Liver Damage:

If you think you might have an issue with alcohol and liver damage, it is important to see a doctor right away to undergo certain testing. Also, stop drinking immediately. If you are an alcoholic or struggle with alcohol addiction, this might require some therapy and support group assistance to help you stop. Tests like blood count, liver biopsy, liver function tests, as well as an ultrasound of the abdomen are often used to help determine if there is an issue or not. If the cirrhosis has gone far enough, you might need a liver transplant, which is why it is important to get help as soon as possible to help treat the liver damage early to avoid a transplant operation. 


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