Alcoholic liver disease emerges from extensive consumption of alcohol, causing long term damage to the liver. Alcoholic liver disease happens to be the greatest source of liver diseases in western nations. Alcohol consists of a toxin called ‘acetaldehyde’ which is known to be harmful to the liver. This toxin may affect some heavy drinkers in a much more severe way than others. Furthermore, the liver is highly efficient at regenerating and repairing itself and so even if more than half the liver happens to be damaged it still manages to function normally. This deems to be one of the biggest problems with liver diseases, as it makes symptoms unnoticeable. The alcoholic liver disease is divided into three stages and a different set of symptoms accompanies each stage.
This liver disease can be categorized into three progressive stages. These stages include the alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Heavy drinking can lead to an accumulation of fatty acids in the liver. This may make it hard for the liver to carry out its designated functions and activities. This stage can even be reached over just a week of extensive drinking. Generally this stage doesn’t display any symptoms.
If the fatty acids in the liver accumulate in a severe manner, the symptoms of alcoholic liver disease in this stage may display abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weakness and nausea.
Alcoholic hepatitis is caused when the liver starts to swell due to extensive consumption of alcohol. This stage is usually reversible if the individual decides on quitting and abstains from alcohol consumption. The time period of abstinence many vary from one afflicted individual to another, where some may only require a few months of absolute abstinence while others may need years and years of it.
Alcoholic liver disease symptoms in this particular stage include loss of appetite, nausea, stomach aches, spider like veins, fever etc.
Cirrhosis occurs when the liver has been swollen for a long period of time, impairing the liver of its functions and scarring its abilities. This stage tends to be irreversible. However, if the patient practices abstinence from alcohol he can improve liver functioning to some extent. But, if the condition has reached a peak of severity, the patient may have to get a liver transplant to survive.
The alcoholic liver disease symptoms accompanying this stage of the disease include fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pains, blotching and redness in the palms of the hands, insomnia, weight loss and itchy skin. As the situation worsens, the patient may experience jaundice, vomiting, dark urine, hair loss, muscle cramps, irregular breathing, loss of libido, bleeding gums and nose, staggering when walking and dizziness.
The first and foremost line of treatment when it comes to alcoholic liver disease is discontinuing alcohol consumption on an urgent basis. If the patient has not yet reached the stage of cirrhosis, abstinence can actually heal the damage that has been caused to the liver so far. If the patients have entered the stage of cirrhosis there is little damage control that can be done then, and the best bet the patient can have is of a liver transplant.