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Alcoholic liver disease

Liver disease due to alcohol; Cirrhosis or hepatitis - alcoholic; Laennec's cirrhosis

Alcoholic liver disease is damage to the liver and its function due to alcohol abuse.

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Digestive system

I Would Like to Learn About:

Causes

Alcoholic liver disease occurs after years of heavy drinking. Over time, scarring and cirrhosis can occur. Cirrhosis is the final phase of alcoholic liver disease.

Alcoholic liver disease does not occur in all heavy drinkers. The chances of getting liver disease go up the longer you have been drinking and more alcohol you consume. You do not have to get drunk for the disease to happen.

The disease seems to be more common in some families. Women may be more likely to have this problem than men.

Symptoms

There may be no symptoms, or symptoms may come on slowly, depending on how well the liver is working. Symptoms tend to be worse after a period of heavy drinking.

Early symptoms include:

As liver function worsens, symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will do a physical exam to look for:

Tests you may have include:

Tests to rule out other diseases include:

Treatment

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

Some things you can do to help take care of your liver disease are:

MEDICINES FROM YOUR DOCTOR

OTHER TREATMENTS

When cirrhosis progresses to end-stage liver disease, a liver transplant may be needed.

Support Groups

Many people benefit from joining support groups for alcoholism or liver disease.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Continued excessive drinking can shorten your lifespan. Your risk for complications such as bleeding, brain changes, and severe liver damage go up. The outcome will likely be poor if you keep drinking.

Cirrhosis is caused by scarring of the liver. In most cases, the liver cannot heal or return to normal function once the damage is severe. Cirrhosis can lead to serious complications.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

Get emergency medical help right away if you have:

Prevention

Talk to your provider about your alcohol intake. The provider can counsel you about how much alcohol is safe for you.

Related Information

Acute
Chronic
Cirrhosis
Alcohol use and safe drinking
Liver disease
Malabsorption
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Bleeding esophageal varices
Loss of brain function - liver disease
Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)
Cirrhosis - discharge

References

Carithers RL, McClain C. Alcoholic liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ. Feldman: Sleisinger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 86.

Garcia-Tsao G. Cirrhosis and its sequelae. In: Goldman L, Schafer Al, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 153.

Garcia-Tsao G, Lim JK; Members of Veterans Affairs Hepatitis C Resource Center Program. Management and treatment of patients with cirrhosis and portal hypertension: recommendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs Hepatitis C Resource Center Program and the National Hepatitis C Program. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104:1802-1829. PMID: 19455106 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19455106.

O'Shea RS, Dasarathy S, McCullough AJ. Alcoholic liver disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2010;105(1):14-32. PMID: 19904248 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19904248.

Schuppan D, Afdhal NH. Liver cirrhosis. Lancet. 2008;371:838-851. 

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Review Date: 8/14/2015  

Reviewed By: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist at Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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