Alcoholic Liver Disease

Safe drinking habits

  • Drink in moderation, i.e., not more than 10-12 units (one unit is one shot of whisky, or a glass of beer or wine or equivalent) per week.
  • Do not drink on empty stomach.
  • Do not ignore food - you must have normal quantities of nutritious food. One of the major problems with excess alcohol is that it blunts appetite and leads to malnourishment and dietary deficiencies.
  • Drink a lot of non-alcoholic fluids especially lemonade after consuming alcohol.
  • Avoid mixing your drinks.
  • Take "alcohol-free breaks" say 3 months in a year. This helps in partial recovery of the liver damage.

What is alcohol-induced liver disease?

Alcohol-induced liver disease is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol and is a common but preventable disease.
There are three stages of alcohol-induced liver disease:

  • Fatty Liver (Stage I)

Fatty liver is excessive accumulation of fat inside the liver cells. This is the most common alcohol-induced liver disorder. The liver is enlarged, causing upper abdominal discomfort on the right side.

  • Alcoholic Hepatitis (Stage II)

Alcoholic hepatitis is an acute inflammation of the liver, accompanied by the destruction of individual liver cells and scarring. Symptoms may include fever, jaundice, an increased white blood cell count, an enlarged, tender liver, and spider-like veins in the skin.

  • Alcoholic Cirrhosis (Stage III)

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the destruction of normal liver tissue, leaving non-functioning scar tissue. Symptoms may include those of alcoholic hepatitis, in addition to portal hypertension (leading to blood vomiting), enlarged spleen, ascites, excessive bleeding (due to poor clotting), kidney failure, confusion, or liver cancer.

How is alcohol-induced liver disease diagnosed?

  • Medical history
  • History of Chronic Alcoholism: Consumption of more than 20 units a week (one unit is one bottle of beer or a glass of wine or a peg of whisky) of alcohol for more than 10 years
  • Liver function tests A series of blood tests to determine if the liver is functioning properly.
  • Liver biopsy A procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope.

Treatment for alcohol-induced liver disease

Specific treatment for alcohol-induced liver disease will be determined by your physician based on the stage of the disease and your acceptance to give up alcohol. The goal of treatment is to restore some or all normal functioning to the liver.

Treatment usually begins with abstinence from alcohol.

In Stage I of fatty liver, and early stages of alcoholic hepatitis (Stage II), merely abstaining from alcohol should control and even cure the problem to a large extent. The liver has great restorative power and is often able to repair some of the damage caused by alcohol. However, the only damage it cannot reverse is scarring from cirrhosis. Once cirrhosis is established (Stage III), the disease will inevitably progress. However, the rate of progress is slowed down markedly with alcohol abstinence. Once advanced cirrhosis sets in, complete abstinence from alcohol and ultimately, liver transplantation is the only option.