Alcohol-related liver disease: Cause, Symptoms, Stages and Risk Factors

Unhealthy alcohol consumption, which ranges from mild to severe, can cause major health issues. Chronic and excessive alcohol consumption often results in liver damage, inflammation, liver scarring, and fat build-up. The liver sustains a great degree of tissue injury since it is the primary organ that metabolizes ethanol. However, the chances of getting this disease are higher with people who consume too much alcohol for extended periods. This disease is common in people aged 40 to 50, and men are more prone to it. 

 

Symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Disease (ARLD)

 

There are usually no symptoms at the beginning with people suffering from alcoholic liver disease. As the disease progress over time, the symptoms become noticeable. 

Initial symptoms of ARLD may include:

  • Abdominal pain (stomach ache)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling sick
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling generally unwell

 

The later stage symptoms of ARLD:

  • Jaundice
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet caused by a build-up of fluid
  • Swelling in your abdomen caused by ascites
  • Redness in palms
  • Confusion
  • Bruising and abnormal bleeding
  • Unusual agitation
  • Blood in vomit and stools
  • Clubbing of fingernails
  • Swelling of the lower limbs

 

Stages of ARLD

 

ARLD is a common disease and occurs after regular drinking for many years. Liver damage may affect the whole body, including the brain and nervous system. An individual may progress through majorly four stages of ARLD, which are:

 

Fatty Liver: It happens due to excess fat accumulation in the liver. There are no significant symptoms at this stage, and it is often reversible if the individual limits alcohol usage from that point in time. 

 

Alcoholic Hepatitis: It is a severe condition of alcoholic liver disease. It leads to swelling and inflammation of the liver. This usually occurs after prolonged alcohol consumption. 

 

Fibrosis: It is a condition in which liver tissues get scarred and start dysfunctioning. Mild to moderate level of fibrosis is reversible. But continuous fibrosis may result in liver cancer. 

 

Cirrhosis: It occurs when the liver suffers from long-term inflammation resulting in scarring and loss of functionality. It is a life-threatening condition. The damage from cirrhosis is irreversible, but an individual may avoid further damage by stopping alcohol consumption. In some cases, recovery from cirrhosis may require a liver transplant. 

 

Risk Factors

 

Multiple factors increase the risk of alcoholic liver disease. The major risk for this disease is the amount of alcohol one consumes. Obesity is also one of the factors for alcoholic liver disease. People who drink alcohol regularly and carry excess body weight are at a higher risk of alcoholic hepatitis. 

Genetic changes may also tend to affect the risk factor. For example, changes in the genetic profile of the enzymes crucial to alcohol metabolism may result in causing alcoholic liver disease. Binge drinking also results in the development of alcoholic liver disease. 

 

Tests for ARLD

 

Multiple tests may be required to diagnose ARLD like:

 

Treatment

 

Lifestyle changes including limiting alcohol intake, eating a healthy diet, and getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B and for other diseases like influenza, are some of the treatment steps which can be taken by an individual.

 

Sources

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/alcoholic-liver-disease
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/215638#treatment
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/digestive/medical-professionals/hepatology/alcoholic-liver-disease