Alcoholic liver disease
Alcoholic liver disease: Introduction
Alcoholic liver disease includes several serious diseases that are the result of excessive alcohol consumption, including alcoholism or alcohol dependence. Alcoholic liver disease includes fatty liver, alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, and/or alcoholic hepatitis. Alcoholic liver disease can result in permanent damage and scarring of the liver and can critically affect the liver's ability to function normally.
The liver is a vital organ, and normal functioning of the liver is crucial to health and life. Damage done to the liver due to alcoholic liver disease impairs the liver's ability to do its job to fight infection, stop bleeding, clear the blood of toxins, store energy, produce healthy blood, digest food and remove waste.
Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease can differ between individuals depending on the specific type of alcoholic disease, the stage of the disease, age, underlying cause, medical history, the presence of complications and general health. One classic symptom is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice). Alcoholic liver disease 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 liver disease.
Making a diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease includes performing a complete medical evaluation and history and physical examination. This includes questioning about the history of alcohol use. An abdominal examination may reveal a liver that is tender and harder or larger than normal. A tender liver is not present in all cases.
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 liver damage. 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 liver disease can be missed or delayed because there may be no symptoms in the early stages and for other reasons. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of alcoholic liver disease.
Some early cases of alcoholic liver disease may be reversed and cured if diagnosed and treated promptly. Alcoholic liver disease that has progressed beyond an early stage can cause permanent scarring or other damage to the liver. However, patient compliance with a good treatment plan may be able to slow or stop progression of alcoholic liver disease and minimize complications. Treatment includes lifestyle changes, treating alcoholism or alcohol dependence, and possibly medication. Serious cases require hospitalization. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of alcoholic liver disease. ...more »
Alcoholic liver disease:
Prolonged alcohol abuse can cause damage to the liver
leading to cirrhosis of the liver (and various other complications).
Liver disease specifically caused by alcohol is called "alcoholic liver disease"
to distinguish it from other causes of liver disease or liver cirrhosis. ...more »
Alcoholic liver disease: Symptoms
Many people with alcoholic liver disease experience no symptoms in the early stage of the disease. However, if excessive consumption of alcohol is not stopped, the disease can advance and damage liver tissue resulting in symptoms and serious complications.
Fatty liver is the first stage of alcoholic liver disease. There are often no symptoms of fatty liver ...more symptoms »
Alcoholic liver disease: Treatments
Treatment plans for alcoholic liver disease are individualized to best fit the patient's age, medical history, and specific type and stage of alcoholic liver disease. The goal of treatment is to reverse, stop or slow the progression of damage to the liver and minimize and quickly treat any complications, such as portal hypertension, esophageal varices, ...more treatments »
Alcoholic liver disease: Misdiagnosis
A diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease may be overlooked or delayed because there may be no symptoms in early stages. In addition, symptoms, such as poor appetite, fatigue, weight loss, and weakness, are vague and easily attributed to less serious conditions, such as aging and stress. Other diseases and conditions that can mimic alcoholic liver disease include viral ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Alcoholic liver disease
See full list of 7
symptoms of Alcoholic liver disease
Treatments for Alcoholic liver disease
- Zinc - possibly used for treatment of related zinc deficiency
- In alcoholic liver disease, abstinence may slow or halt progression of liver damage. However, once alcoholic cirrhosis is established, care is aimed at management of complications as they arise, as well as management of chronic poor health related to liver dysfunction. Treatments include:
- Abstinence from alcohol
- Nutrition - supplements may be needed to ensure adequate calories, protein and B group vitamins
- Zinc supplementation - may help improve appetite
- more treatments...»
Read more about treatments for Alcoholic liver disease
Home Diagnostic Testing
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Wrongly Diagnosed with Alcoholic liver disease?
Alcoholic liver disease: Related Patient Stories
Alcoholic liver disease: Deaths
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Types of Alcoholic liver disease
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Alcoholic liver disease: Complications
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Causes of Alcoholic liver disease
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Alcoholic liver disease: Undiagnosed Conditions
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Misdiagnosis and Alcoholic liver disease
Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms
of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed.
The best known, ...read more »
Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea
is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called ...read more »
Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely
to cause some level of diarrhea in patients.
The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria,
but can also kill the "good"...read more »
Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down
with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food poisoning).
In fact, it...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain...read more »
Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive
conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety...read more »
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 conditions include ...read more »
Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent
difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases.
Some of the better known possibilities are peptic ulcer,...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Alcoholic liver disease
Alcoholic liver disease: Research Doctors & Specialists
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- Liver Health Specialists (Hepatology):
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Alcoholic liver disease: Rare Types
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Latest Treatments for Alcoholic liver disease
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Evidence Based Medicine Research for Alcoholic liver disease
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Alcoholic liver disease: Animations
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Prognosis for Alcoholic liver disease
Prognosis for Alcoholic liver disease:
If drinking stops, this condition often
is reversible. (Source: excerpt from Alcohol What You Don't Know Can Harm You: NIAAA)
Although cirrhosis is not reversible, if drinking
stops, one's chances of survival improve considerably. (Source: excerpt from Alcohol What You Don't Know Can Harm You: NIAAA)
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Types of Alcoholic liver disease
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