Alcohol-related liver disease or alcoholic hepatitis is a severe syndrome of alcoholic liver disease according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Those who imbibe alcohol frequently and participate in excessive alcohol consumption may develop alcoholic hepatitis.
If a person suffers from alcoholic hepatitis, they may experience various symptoms such as inflammation of the liver which can require treatment.
Causes Of Alcoholic Hepatitis
There are several causes of alcoholic hepatitis, all of which are alcohol-induced.
Binge drinking is defined as having 5 or more drinks within a few hours for men and 4 or more drinks within a few hours for women. Binge drinking is stated as a process in which a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level equals 0.08% or more in a short period of time.
Heavy drinkers who participate in binge drinking may be more likely to develop acute alcoholic hepatitis, according to the NIH.
Another instance of alcohol intake leading to hepatitis is the act of heavy drinking.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), heavy drinking is defined as consuming 15 or more drinks throughout the week for men and 8 or more drinks throughout the week for women.
Alcoholic liver disease can progress in those participating in heavy alcohol use. Additionally, drinking alcohol heavily may increase the risk of liver cancer. Those participating in heavy drinking may also struggle with obesity which can exacerbate symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis.
Symptoms Of Alcoholic Hepatitis
Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis can range in severity. Some of the symptoms associated with the beginning stages of alcoholic hepatitis include:
- weight loss and lack of calories consumed
- loss of energy
- portal hypertension
- stomach pain
Worsening Liver Function
Those who disregard symptoms and continue abusing alcohol may see the worsening of certain liver functions. As the liver experiences more harm, a person mays suffer from symptoms which consist of:
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- easy bruising
- ascites (fluid in the abdomen)
- clay-colored stools
- liver injury
The disease can continue to progress, leading to numerous symptoms associated with alcoholic hepatitis.
Those presenting with severe cases of alcoholic hepatitis may suffer from life-threatening symptoms which include:
- liver failure
- scarring of the liver such as liver cirrhosis
- hepatic encephalopathy
- spontaneous bacterial peritonitis
Alcoholic cirrhosis may begin to be present in the final stages of the disease. Hepatitis creates damage to liver cells, leading to the death of the cells. Liver damage may occur due to the buildup of toxins caused by alcohol use.
Diagnosing Alcoholic Hepatitis
Those diagnosed with hepatitis c, hepatitis b, or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis who consume alcohol have an increased risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis.
Early diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis can help prevent certain conditions developing. Some of the ways doctors determine if you have the disease include imaging tests, blood tests, or a liver biopsy.
Engaging in severe alcohol use may lead to alcoholic hepatitis, but can also be a risk factor in being diagnosed with fatty liver disease. To diagnose alcoholic hepatitis, your healthcare representative may check to see if you suffer from any of the following:
- elevated liver enzymes
- enlarged liver
- shrunken testicles or extra breast tissue in men
- red palms
Treatment For Alcoholic Hepatitis
There are severe complications of alcoholic hepatitis which can develop, requiring professional treatment options. Those suffering from malnutrition may require specific nutritional supplements to help replenish the body.
Certain medications can be useful as well, including corticosteroids to reduce swelling in the liver. Additionally, a doctor may prescribe medications short-term to treat bacterial infections such as pentoxifylline or prednisolone.
A liver transplant may be necessary for those with severe alcoholic hepatitis. If you suffer from alcoholic hepatitis, seek treatment urgently, as life-threatening symptoms can develop.
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- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Focus On: Alcohol and the Liver https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh40/87-96.htm
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Hepatitis https://medlineplus.gov/hepatitis.html#:~:text=Alcoholic%20hepatitis%20is%20caused%20by,environment%20may%20play%20a%20role.
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcoholic liver disease https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000281.htm
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcohol Use Disorder https://medlineplus.gov/alcoholusedisorderaud.html
- National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Alcoholic Hepatitis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470217/
- Oxford Journals: Alcohol and Alcoholism - Alcoholic Hepatitis: A Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6671387/