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Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver

Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver: Introduction

Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver is a serious disease that results in permanent damage to the liver due to ongoing excessive consumption of alcohol. Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver critically affects the liver's ability to function normally. It is an ongoing, chronic disease and can lead to grave, even lethal, complications in other vital organs and body systems, such as the kidneys, immune system, brain, circulatory system and digestive system.

The liver is a vital organ, and normal functioning of the liver is crucial to health and life. Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver causes scar tissue, fibrosis, and shrinkage of the liver. This scar tissue reduces the liver's ability to do its vital job in helping the body to fight infection, stop bleeding, clear the blood of toxins, store energy, produce healthy blood, digest food and remove waste.

Symptoms of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver can differ between individuals depending on such variables as stage of the disease, age, medical history, the presence of complications and general health. One classic symptom is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver can result in serious, potentially life-threatening complications, such as portal hypertension, liver failure, hemorrhage, kidney failure, and death. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.

Making a diagnosis of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver includes performing a complete medical evaluation and history and physical examination. This includes questioning about alcohol use. An abdominal examination may reveal a liver that is harder and smaller than normal.

Diagnostic testing includes liver function tests. These are blood tests that can reveal abnormal functioning of the liver. Imaging tests that create a picture of the liver may include an ultrasound, CT, and/or a nuclear liver scan.

In some cases, a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy may also be performed. This procedure allows the physician to visualize the liver using a special lighted instrument, called a laparoscope. The laparoscope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen and moved into place to view the liver and send pictures to a computer screen. This procedure is minimally invasive and may include taking a small sample of liver tissue, called a biopsy, to examine for signs of scarring. A liver biopsy may also be performed by inserting a long needle through the abdomen into the liver.

It is possible that a diagnosis of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver can be missed or delayed because there may be no symptoms in early stages of the disease and for other reasons. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.

The scarring of the liver caused by alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver cannot be reversed or cured. However, patient compliance with a good treatment plan may be able to slow or stop progression of the disease and minimize complications. Treatment includes abstinence from alcohol and treating alcoholism, medication, lifestyle changes, and treating any coexisting conditions, such as alcoholic hepatitis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. ...more »

Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver: Symptoms

Most people with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, because small amounts of scarring do not significantly affect the functioning of the liver. However, if the cause of the alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver is not addressed, the disease will advance and damage to the liver tissue enough to produce symptoms. Alcoholic hepatitis ...more symptoms »

Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver: Treatments

The most effective treatment plan for alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver uses a multifaceted approach. Treatment plans are individualized to best fit the patient's age, medical history, and stage of the disease. The goal of treatment is to stop or slow the progression of damage to the liver and minimize and quickly treat any complications, such as portal hypertension, esophageal ...more treatments »

Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver begins with taking a thorough health history, including symptoms, and performing a physical exam that includes an abdominal exam. A diagnosis of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver may be overlooked or delayed because in its early stages there may be no symptoms. In addition, symptoms, such as poor appetite, fatigue, ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver?

Misdiagnosis and Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver

Chronic liver disease often undiagnosed: One study reported that 50% of patients with a chronic liver disease remain undiagnosed by their primary physician. The reasons are multifactorial. Possible...read more »

Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Hospitals & Clinics: Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver

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Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver: Animations

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More information about Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver

  1. Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver: Introduction
  2. Symptoms
  3. Treatments
  4. Misdiagnosis
  5. Home Testing
 

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