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Alcoholism and Liver Disease

Alcoholism is a progressive and fatal disease. It negatively affects every aspect of a person’s mental, physical, and spiritual health. The reality of the way that alcohol affects and the liver and the consequences of alcoholism is truly frightening. As casual drinking becomes heavy drinking and heavy drinking becomes alcoholism, the damage caused to the liver can be permanent and lead to a variety of long-term health complications and even early death.

There are three main types of liver disease that can be caused by alcohol: fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. Steatosis, or fatty liver, is the earliest stage of liver disease and by far the most common. According to the American Liver Foundation, “It is characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat inside liver cells, which makes it harder for the liver to function.” Usually there are no symptoms or occasionally one will experience pain on the right side of the upper abdomen. Fortunately, fatty liver is reversible with sobriety,, but continued drinking will cause fatty liver to progress into cirrhosis. There are few deaths caused directly by steatosis, but acute liver failure or fat embolism is possible.

The second type of liver disease caused by alcohol is acute alcoholic hepatitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is most likely to occur in “people who drink heavily over many years. However, the relationship between drinking and alcoholic hepatitis is complex. Not all heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis, and the disease can occur in people who drink only moderately.” If diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis, the only cure is to stop drinking. Symptoms include yellowing to the skin and eyes, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, weight loss, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, a person can experience kidney and liver failure. Severe acute alcoholic hepatitis is associated with a mortality rate up to fifty percent.

The final type of liver disease, alcoholic cirrhosis, is by far the most severe. Cirrhosis occurs when the liver becomes scarred and is permanently damaged. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue and prevents your liver from working normally. As cirrhosis gets worse, your liver begins to fail.” Survival for those suffering from cirrhosis is sixty to seventy percent at one year, but drops to thirty-five to fifty percent at five years. The median survival rate for men and women with cirrhosis is only one to two years. Early symptoms of cirrhosis include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and feeling tired or weak. Overt time, however, symptoms may include confusion, memory loss, sleep disorders, bloating, itchy skin, jaundice,darkening of the urine, high blood pressure in the liver, and enlarged spleen. According to the American Liver Foundation, between ten and twenty person of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis. Without sobriety, cirrhosis will undoubtedly be fatal.

You don’t have to suffer diminished health as a result of alcoholism. You can make the courageous decision to seek help now and begin building a brighter future in sobriety. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, offers a highly effective residential treatment program that includes medically-supported detoxification, maintenance care, individual therapies, counseling (including family therapy), and plans to help clients build life skills that will help them after discharge. For more information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431