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Alcoholic Hepatitis Alcoholic Hepatitis
  • What is alcoholic hepatitis?
  • What are the causes of alcoholic hepatitis?
  • What are the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis?
  • How is alcoholic hepatitis treated?
  • What are the complications and related diseases?
Alcoholic Hepatitis

What is alcoholic hepatitis?

Excessive alcohol consumption may cause inflammation of the liver, a condition called alcoholic hepatitis.

Alcoholic hepatitis is common in people who drink excessively over a long period of time. While there is a relation between drinking and alcoholic hepatitis, the condition is not limited to heavy drinkers. Alcoholic hepatitis may also affect people who drink moderately.

It is recommended that patients diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis stop drinking alcohol. The continued consumption of alcohol will pose a high risk of serious liver damage and even death.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

What are the causes of alcoholic hepatitis?

Alcoholic hepatitis happens when the liver gets damaged from alcohol consumption. The reasons how alcohol consumption damages the liver, and why it only affects some heavy drinkers, are still unclear and is the subject of continued medical research.

There are several factors that contribute to alcoholic hepatitis.

The condition could be caused when highly toxic chemicals are released as a by-product when the body breaks down alcohol. These chemicals may cause inflammation in the liver when its cells are destroyed. As this happens repeatedly over time, scarring occurs in the liver as scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue. This will eventually interfere with liver function. Such irreversible scarring, or cirrhosis, is the final stage of alcoholic liver disease.

Other factors that cause alcoholic hepatitis include the other types of hepatitis and malnutrition. For example, patients who suffer from hepatitis C, yet continue to drink alcohol, are more likely to develop cirrhosis than those who do not drink.

Malnutrition typically results when heavy drinkers eat poorly, or when alcohol and its by-products prevent the body from absorbing nutrients properly. A lack of nutrients can contribute to liver damage.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

What are the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis?

Some common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tenderness in and around the abdominal area
  • Appetite loss
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Recurring fevers
  • Confusion (hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Ascites
  • Behavioural changes
  • Malnutrition
Alcoholic Hepatitis

How is alcoholic hepatitis treated?

Treatment for alcoholic hepatitis, will involve stopping alcohol consumption and therapies to ease the signs and symptoms of liver damage.

Treatments include:

  • Quitting alcohol

    A change of habit and lifestyle is necessary for the damaged liver to recover. Personalized therapies and plans are available to help alcohol-dependent patients quit drinking.
  • Malnutrition

    Special diets may be prescribed to correct nutritional issues. Tube feeding may be a solution for those who have trouble eating.
  • Medication

    This helps to reduce liver inflammation.
  • Liver transplant

    Patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis with irreversible liver damage or limited liver function, will need a liver transplant.
Alcoholic Hepatitis

What are the complications and related diseases?

Complications of alcoholic hepatitis include:

  • Ascites - fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
  • Varices - enlargement of veins that cause bleeding. The swelling and bleeding of such veins in the oesophagus or upper stomach are life-threatening and require immediate medical intervention.
  • Confusion (hepatic encephalopathy), slurred speech and drowsiness.
  • Liver cirrhosis - scarring of the liver that can lead to liver failure.
  • Kidney failure - a damaged liver can affect blood flow to the kidneys, causing kidney failure.