Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
(603) 742-5252
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+) font size
Physicians
myWDconnect Patient Portal
Pay Your Bill Online
Pricing Estimates
Financial Assistance
Health Library
Health Insurance Marketplace
Interpreter and Communication Services
Surgery Preparation
Medical Records
Accountable Care Organization
Advance Directives
Clinical Research & Trials
Food and Nutrition Services
Back to Health Library   Print This Page Print    Email to a Friend Email

Digestive system
Digestive system


Digestive system organs
Digestive system organs


Definition:

Alcoholic liver disease is damage to the liver and its function due to alcohol abuse.

See also: Cirrhosis



Alternative Names:

Liver disease due to alcohol; Cirrhosis or hepatitis - alcoholic; Laennec's cirrhosis



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Alcoholic liver disease usually occurs after years of excessive drinking. The longer the alcohol use and the more alcohol that was consumed, the greater the likelihood of developing liver disease .

Acute alcoholic hepatitis can result from binge drinking. It may be life-threatening if severe.

People who drink excessively can become malnourished because of the empty calories from alcohol, reduced appetite, and poor absorption (malabsorption ) of nutrients in the intestines. Malnutrition contributes to liver disease.

Other factors that contribute to the development of alcoholic liver disease:

  • Genetic factors
  • Personal susceptibility to alcohol-induced liver disease
  • Toxicity of alcohol (ethanol) to the liver

Alcoholic liver disease does not affect all heavy drinkers. Women may be more susceptible than men. It is not necessary to get drunk for the disease to develop.



Symptoms:

Changes start in the liver as inflammation (hepatitis) and lead to fatty liver and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final phase of alcoholic liver disease.

Symptoms may not be present until the disease is advanced, and may include:

Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

  • Abnormally dark or light skin
  • Agitation
  • Bloody, dark black, or tarry bowel movements (melena )
  • Breast development in males
  • Changing mood
  • Confusion (encephalopathy)
    • Changed level of consciousness
    • Hallucinations
    • Impaired short- or long-term memory
  • Difficulty paying attention (attention deficit)
  • Impaired ability to concentrate
  • Impaired judgment
  • Light-headedness or fainting, especially when standing
  • Paleness
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia ) when rising to standing position
  • Redness on feet or hands
  • Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
  • Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds

Symptoms vary based on the severity of the disease. They are usually worse after a recent period of heavy drinking.



Signs and tests:

Tests to rule out other diseases include:



Treatment:

The most important part of treatment is to stop using alcohol completely. If liver cirrhosis has not yet occurred, the liver can heal if you stop drinking alcohol.

An alcohol rehabilitation program or counseling may be necessary to break the alcohol addiction. Vitamins, especially B-complex and folic acid, can help reverse malnutrition.

If cirrhosis develops, you will need to manage the complications of cirrhosis. You may need a liver transplant.



Support Groups:

You can often ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems.

See:



Expectations (prognosis):

Continued excessive drinking can shorten your lifespan. The outcome will likely be poor if you keep drinking.



Complications:

Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if:

  • You develop symptoms of alcoholic liver disease
  • You develop symptoms after prolonged or heavy drinking
  • You are concerned that drinking may be damaging your health


Prevention:

Discuss your alcohol intake with your doctor. The doctor can counsel you about how much alcohol is safe to drink for your situation.



References:

Carithers RL, McClain C. Alcoholic liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ. Feldman: Sleisinger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006:chap 81.

Schuppan D, Afdhal NH. Liver cirrhosis. Lancet. 2008;371:838-851.




Review Date: 12/12/2008
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (5/20/2008).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com


Find What You Need

Events
Careers
Foundation
About Us
Contact
Directions
News
Social Media Agreement
Joint Notice
Web Privacy Policy
WDH Staff Portal

Centers & Services

Cancer Center
Cardiovascular Care
Joint Replacement
Women & Children's
Physician Offices
Other Services

Conditions & Treatments

Health Library

Support Services

Support Groups
Care-Van
Dental Center
Social Work
Food & Nutrition
Integrative Wellness
Spiritual Care
Concerns & Grievances
Homecare and Hospice

For Patients

Pay Your Bill Online
Pricing Estimates
Financial Assistance
Interpreter Services
Surgery Preparation
Medical Record Request
Advance Directives
Clinical Research & Trials

For Healthcare Professionals

Work and Life
Financial Well-Being
Career and Growth

The Wentworth-Douglass Health System includes:

 

Address

Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100