Alcoholic liver disease
Alcoholic liver disease is damage to the liver and its function due to alcohol abuse.
Liver disease due to alcohol; Cirrhosis or hepatitis - alcoholic; Laennec's cirrhosis
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.
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:
Some things you can do to help take care of your liver disease are:
MEDICINES FROM YOUR DOCTOR
When cirrhosis progresses to end-stage liver disease, a liver transplant may be needed.
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.
Complications may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
Get emergency medical help right away if you have:
Talk to your provider about your alcohol intake. The provider can counsel you about how much alcohol is safe for you.
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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.
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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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