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  • Excessive alcohol use can lead to several alcohol-related liver diseases. The liver is a crucial part of the human body and the consequences can be devastating for those who have low liver function due to alcohol consumption.

    Alcoholic hepatitis can be severe and life-threatening. Those who continue drinking alcohol, even after receiving a diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis will likely have liver damage and may develop cirrhosis over time. 

    Alcoholic Liver Disease

    Alcoholic hepatitis is a severe syndrome of alcoholic liver disease. In fact, there are three stages of alcoholic liver disease.

    Alcoholic Fatty Liver

    First occurring is alcoholic fatty liver or steatosis. During this time, fat will be stored in the liver parenchyma. While most of the alcohol is metabolized in the hepatocytes in the liver, some may enter the gastrointestinal tract.

    Alcoholic Hepatitis

    Secondly, you may develop alcoholic hepatitis. During this time, the liver cells become inflamed and fatty liver disease, hepatic fibrosis, and cirrhosis can occur. Depending on the severity of the liver damage, one may develop liver failure. 

    Alcoholic Cirrhosis

    Lastly, alcoholic cirrhosis can take place, which is irreversible. Those who develop liver cirrhosis will likely need to stop their alcohol intake immediately.

    Causes Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

    Those who participate in heavy drinking are at a higher risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis. In addition to this, there are genetic and environmental factors that can make a person more susceptible to alcohol.

    Heavy Alcohol Use

    The liver can handle certain amounts of alcohol, but not in large quantities. When heavy alcohol use is in play, the function of the liver begins to decrease as fatty liver cells accumulate in the liver. When toxins begin to buildup in the liver, hepatic encephalopathy may occur.

    Those who continue drinking alcohol, especially in the form of binge drinking, may develop alcoholic hepatitis at this stage. Later, if heavy drinkers persist in their drinking, alcoholic cirrhosis may occur, which can lead to extreme liver injury or death.

    Severe alcoholic hepatitis is another danger, as it can happen suddenly and lead to liver failure and death.

    Symptoms Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

    The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis may include:

    • high levels of bilirubin
    • blood clotting problems
    • jaundice or yellowing of the skin
    • cirrhosis
    • malnutrition
    • ​abdominal pain
    • hepatomegaly
    • steatohepatitis
    • hepatic encephalopathy
    • ascites
    • ​hepatorenal syndrome
    • ​high levels of liver enzymes
    • liver cancer
    • ​renal failure
    • weight loss

    Preventing Alcoholic Hepatitis

    In order to prevent alcoholic hepatitis, it’s important to stop drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. The occasional drink may not cause liver damage, but those who drink alcohol in large amounts can develop alcoholic hepatitis which can lead to a number of problems.

    Tests & Transplants

    Doctors can perform blood tests and may need to perform a liver biopsy to determine how well your liver is functioning. If your liver is badly damaged or scarred from alcohol abuse, you may need a liver transplant. 

    A liver transplantation can be necessary for those suffering from severe alcoholic hepatitis or acute alcoholic hepatitis. For those who develop acute alcoholic hepatitis, treatment may be necessary to ease side effects and manage your symptoms.

    Scores & Models

    Doctors may use Maddrey’s discriminant function score to determine if it’s more than 32. Those who fall in this range will likely be treated with prednisolone. Maddrey’s score helps doctors determine the severity of the liver damage. 

    Health care professionals may use the Lille model, which can determine whether or not you require the use of corticosteroids. You may also be prescribed pentoxifylline to help you reduce inflammation. 

    Substance Abuse Treatment

    Professional substance abuse treatment can help you manage alcohol withdrawal and assist you in quitting alcohol for good. Alcohol addiction treatment programs may include behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, support groups, and other recovery services.

    To learn more about our treatment programs, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Excessive Alcohol Use
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcoholic Liver Disease
    StatPearls - Alcoholic Hepatitis
    StatPearls - Alcoholic Liver Disease
    World Journal of Hepatology - Symptoms and Signs of Acute Alcoholic Hepatitis

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on June 30, 2022
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