Alcoholic Liver Disease: Symptoms, Causes & Diagnosis
September 13, 2019
Alcohol is the most common cause of serious liver disease in our country. In addition to the liver, it can also seriously damage the pancreas and heart.
How does alcohol damage the liver?
Alcohol damages the liver by several mechanisms. Patients with alcoholic liver disease go through three phases of liver damage:
- Simple steatosis (fatty liver): Stopping alcohol at this stage completely reverses the liver damage.
- Alcoholic hepatitis: This is a serious condition where patients present with severe jaundice, altered consciousness, and sometimes fever. These patients are highly prone for infection. Many patients with alcoholic hepatitis may have underlying cirrhosis. These patients may require ICU care with adequate fluid balance, nutrition and supportive measures. Stopping alcohol at this point is still beneficial in reducing long-term damage.
- Cirrhosis. Here the patient becomes malnourished and weak. He/she may develop fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, may vomit blood leading to liver failure and death. There is also the risk of liver cancer in these patients.
How much can I drink without developing liver disease?
Patients who consume excess alcohol regularly over several years are more likely to develop cirrhosis. Alcohol consumption of over 90 ml of liquor or equivalent quantity of beer or wine will definitely lead to serious liver disease. There is, however, no safe level of alcohol consumption below which liver disease cannot develop. Those who binge drink on the weekends are not spared!