What Is Alcoholic Hepatitis?
Alcoholic hepatitis is an
inflammation of the liver. It is typically caused by excessive alcohol
consumption over a long period of time. If you develop this condition, you must
stop drinking alcohol. Continued drinking can lead to additional health
problems, such as cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver or liver failure.
What Causes Alcoholic
When alcohol is
broken down (metabolized) in the liver, it produces highly toxic chemicals.
These chemicals can scar the liver. This scarring then leads to inflammation
and alcoholic hepatitis.
drinking causes alcoholic hepatitis, doctors are not entirely sure why the
condition develops. Alcoholic hepatitis only develops in a small number of
heavy drinkers. It can also develop in people who are only moderate drinkers.
Because alcoholic hepatitis does not occur in all heavy drinkers,
other factors may influence the development of this condition. These include:
- genetic factors that affect how
the body processes alcohol
- the presence of other liver
disorders, such as hepatitis C
Women are at a greater
risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis. This may be a due to the differences in
how the male and female bodies absorb and break down alcohol.
The Symptoms of Alcoholic
symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis vary depending on the amount of damage that has
occurred to the liver. If you have a mild case of the disease, you may not
experience any symptoms. However as more damage occurs, you may begin to experience:
- changes in appetite
- dry mouth
- weight loss
- nausea and vomiting
- pain or swelling in the abdomen
- yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
- changes in your mental state, including
The symptoms of alcoholic
hepatitis are similar to those caused by other health conditions. If you
develop any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor to get a proper diagnosis
and begin treatment.
How Is Alcoholic Hepatitis
you have symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis, your doctor will ask you about your
health history and alcohol consumption. Your doctor will also perform a
physical exam to see if you have an enlarged liver or spleen. He or she may
decide to order tests to confirm your diagnosis. These could include:
- complete blood count (CBC)
- liver function test
- abdominal CT scan
- ultrasound of the liver
If your diagnosis cannot be
confirmed through these tests, your doctor may order a liver biopsy. A liver
biopsy is an invasive procedure that requires your doctor to remove a tissue
sample from the liver. A liver biopsy will show if you have liver disease.
This test will also show whether or not you have alcoholic hepatitis.
Treatment Options for Alcoholic
If you are diagnosed with
alcoholic hepatitis, you will need to stop drinking. By avoiding alcohol, you
may be able to reverse the damage that was done to your liver.
Even if the damage is too
severe to reverse, you should still quit drinking to prevent further harm to
your liver. You might need help to stop drinking, especially if you are
struggling with alcohol addiction. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the
different treatment options for addiction.
Treatment for alcoholic
hepatitis may also include medications that reduce inflammation in your liver
and improve liver function.
If you are malnourished,
your doctor may also prescribe vitamin and nutrient supplements. If you are having
difficulty eating, these nutrients may be provided through a feeding tube. A
feeding tube is passed from your nose or mouth into your stomach, allowing nutrient-rich
liquids to enter your body.
If your liver is severely
damaged, your doctor may recommend a liver transplant. To qualify for a
transplant, you must demonstrate that you will not continue drinking if you
receive a new liver. You will also need to abstain from alcohol for at least
six months. In some cases, you may be required to seek counseling as well.
Long-Term Outlook for
Your outlook will be based
on the severity of your symptoms and the amount of damage that has occurred to
your liver. Your outlook also depends on whether you are able to stop drinking.
If your symptoms are mild and you stop drinking, your prognosis is typically
If you do not stop drinking
and your condition worsens, your overall outcome and chances for recovery will worsen
as well. Alcoholic hepatitis can lead to hepatic encephalopathy. This condition
occurs when the toxins typically filtered out by your liver remain in the
blood. These toxins can cause brain damage and lead to a coma.
Your outlook may be worse if
you develop scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) as a result of your drinking.
How Can You Prevent
The best way to prevent
alcoholic hepatitis is to avoid alcohol or, if you drink, to do so only in
moderation. Alcoholic hepatitis can also be prevented through proper nutrition
and by protecting yourself from hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease
that can be transmitted by sharing needles and other equipment for drug use, or
by having unprotected sex.