Alcohol-related liver disease is damage to the liver caused by excessive drinking. When you take in too much alcohol, you overwork the tissues of your liver, leading to their inflammation. This inflammation then causes swelling of the liver tissues.
The damaged liver will not only become inflamed, but it can also become scarred, but a medical condition also called liver cirrhosis. This is the final destination of any liver disease including ARLD!
ARLD has become one of the major problems in public health. Not less than 8% of Americans who drink heavily consistently will eventually have ARLD.
‘Heavy drinking’ is defined as drinking not less than 8 alcoholic beverages every week for women and not less than 15 every week for men.
Types and symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease
ARLD occurs in stages hence, the symptoms will be stage-based. Three stages have been classified:
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease: This is stage one of ARLD. In this stage, fat has begun accumulating in the tissues surrounding the liver. This stage can be cured if you stop drinking permanently.
- Acute alcoholic hepatitis: At this stage, inflammation has set in but something can still be done to rescue your liver. Inflammation always goes with swelling of the tissue affected. If the inflammation is mild, something can still be done to reverse whatever damage might have occurred in your liver tissues. But if the inflammation is severe, liver failure is not negotiable.
- Alcoholic cirrhosis: This is the final stage. When your liver has gotten to this point, the liver damage cannot be reversed. Cirrhosis becomes a reality. Failure of your liver functions has become a ‘new dawn’ for you to live in!
If you have ARLD, your symptoms might not be seen until the disease has reached a stage I call ‘advance’. This should be the final stage where the tissues of the liver have become permanently damaged. There are times that the symptoms might start showing up earlier than the advanced state. Symptoms of ARLD are given below:
- loss of appetite
- abdominal discomfort
- swelling both in the abdomen and legs
- increased thirst
- mood swings
- weight loss
- bleeding gums
- skin darkening or lightening
- enlarged breasts in men
- red hands or feet
- dark fecal matter
Symptoms of ARLD may show up more often after binge drinking.
Risk factors for alcohol-related liver disease
You will likely have ARLD if:
- your family has a history of ARLD
- you are a heavy drinker
- you often binge drink
- you eat poorly
Diagnosing alcohol-related liver disease
ARLD can be diagnosed via the following ways:
- abdominal ultrasound
- complete blood count (CBC)
- abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan
- liver function test including a test for enzymes (alanine aminotransferase (ALT), gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) ) in the liver.
If you are diagnosed with AST level twice the normal, you are considered to have developed ARLD. Not less than 80% of ARLD cases follow this pattern as submitted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Treating alcohol-related liver disease
ARLD treatment has two focuses – stop drinking and two, restore your liver functions!
Likely recommendations from your doctor:
- Alcoholic rehabilitation program i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous. You can with this platform be helped to stop drinking.
- Multivitamins i.e. vitamin B-complex. It will help in managing your anemia and poor nutrition.
- Liver transplant – This is only needed if you have gotten to the third stage – scarred liver tissue.
- Vitamin A supplements – You have vitamin A-deficiency if you ARLD so you need this!
Combining vitamin A with alcohol can be deadly. You can only take it if and only if you have stopped drinking altogether. Supplements can prevent malnutrition.
Complications of alcohol-related liver disease
Complications of ARLD may include:
- permanent scarring of the liver that can eventually lead to loss of liver functions
- bleeding esophageal varicose, that is, enlarged esophageal veins due to liver disease
- increased blood pressure in the liver – portal hypertension
- brain function loss due to toxins’ buildup in the blood – hepatic encephalopathy
The outlook of alcohol-related liver disease
ARLD can cut short the life of anyone who has it. If you don’t have ARLD yet and you are ‘bosom’ friends with alcohol, you should have reconsideration about it.
If you are already malnourished, just change your diet at once: feed well on diets that enrich your body!
Take supplements if need be.
And if you think you have issues with drinking, you can seek help from your doctor. There are programs he can recommend for you.