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  • Alcoholic steatohepatitis is liver inflammation caused by high alcohol intake. The liver is likely to hit harder by alcohol use compared to other parts of your body.

    Alcoholic steatohepatitis is also known as alcoholic hepatitis.  It is a severe form of alcohol-related liver disease or ALD.

    If detected in time, liver damage caused by hepatitis may be managed with proper treatment. If not, steatohepatitis can progress into life-threatening liver cirrhosis and liver failure.

    How Excessive Alcohol Consumption Leads To Liver Inflammation

    Alcohol-related liver problems may start after years of heavy drinking. The earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease is hepatic steatosis or fatty liver disease

    During steatosis, lipids build up in the liver because hepatocytes (liver cells) can no longer keep up with constant drinking.

    If drinking continues, fatty liver disease can turn into liver inflammation. As the liver breaks down, inflammation can become liver fibrosis, cirrhosis (forming of scar tissue around the liver), hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer), and liver failure.

    About 20% to 35% of people who get hepatic steatosis end up with more serious forms like hepatitis and cirrhosis.

    Side Effects Of Alcoholic Steatohepatitis

    Liver inflammation can cause liver damage, which can have serious effects on your health. Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:

    • jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
    • muscle weakness
    • confusion
    • fever
    • abdominal pain
    • sudden weight loss
    • anorexia

    Alcohol-Related Liver Disease Diagnosis

    Patients who have symptoms of liver problems may be screened for an ALD. During the screening, you may be asked about your history of alcohol abuse. 

    Blood tests known as liver function tests are also common. Two important liver enzymes in these tests are alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST). Unusual ratios of ALT and AST may be a sign of alcohol-related liver disease.

    Some patients may also be recommended for a liver biopsy, where a piece of liver tissue is taken out and tested.

    Risk Factors For Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

    Aside from heavy alcohol use, other risk factors can increase your chances of getting an ALD.

    Obesity is a major risk factor for both alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Metabolic syndrome, a combination of health problems involving high blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin resistance, can also make ALD problems worse.

    The prevalence of these conditions in the United States is increasing, which may raise the general risk of ALDs.

    Treatment For Alcoholic Steatohepatitis

    Treatments for alcoholic hepatitis involve reducing symptoms and preventing inflammation from progressing into more severe liver damage. If hepatitis becomes advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis, the chances of recovery can get much worse.


    Prednisolone is a steroid that can reduce liver inflammation, while pentoxifylline is an anti-inflammatory drug that can reduce high blood pressure and other side effects of hepatitis.

    Steroids are the main medication used to treat alcoholic hepatitis, but studies show they work on less than half of all patients. Other patients may need different treatment options.

    Stopping Alcohol Use

    If ALD is diagnosed in its early stages, getting sober can reverse the liver damage. If the ALD has already become alcoholic hepatitis, getting sober can prevent hepatitis from becoming a life-threatening liver injury, like cirrhosis or liver cancer.

    Many people who have alcohol-related liver problems also have an alcohol use disorder. Getting sober may involve withdrawal management and therapy.

    Changing Lifestyle

    Patients may also be asked to try out lifestyle changes such as changing to a healthy diet and exercising more. These changes can make it easier to stay sober and improve overall health.

    Liver Transplants

    Patients with severe alcohol-related liver disease may be eligible for a liver transplant. Liver transplants have been linked to higher survival and recovery rates in patients with an ALD.

    However, liver transplants in ALD patients can cause complications, such as rejection or cardiovascular problems. Many patients are not eligible for a liver transplant, meaning other treatments will likely be needed.

    Alcoholic Vs. Nonalcoholic Hepatitis

    Alcoholic hepatitis is not the only form of chronic liver disease. Other forms of hepatitis (like hepatitis C) are caused by viruses. Forms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease also have different risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.

    It’s important for doctors to know your history of alcohol use. An ALD or NAFLD diagnosis means you may receive different forms of treatment.

    Addressing Alcohol-Related Health Problems

    Data from 2013 reported about 10 million people in the U.S. had an ALD. 

    Not everyone who drinks heavily will develop alcoholic hepatitis, but those who do may have serious health problems. If you drink often and think about quitting due to potential health problems, you may not be sure how to start.

    However, a dedicated treatment program can help you get sober and avoid relapsing. To find the best alcohol abuse treatment available, 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.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on July 3, 2022
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