Site Map

Alcoholic liver disease

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

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

Images

Digestive system
Liver anatomy
Fatty liver, CT scan

I Would Like to Learn About:

Causes

Alcoholic liver disease occurs after years of heavy drinking. Over time, scarring and cirrhosis can occur. Cirrhosis is the final phase of alcoholic liver disease.

Alcoholic liver disease does not occur in all heavy drinkers. The chances of getting liver disease go up the longer you have been drinking and more alcohol you consume. You do not have to get drunk for the disease to happen.

The disease is common in people between 40 and 50 years of age. Men are more likely to have this problem. However, women may develop the disease after less exposure to alcohol than men. Some people may have an inherited risk for the disease.

Symptoms

There may be no symptoms, or symptoms may come on slowly. This depends on how well the liver is working. Symptoms tend to be worse after a period of heavy drinking.

Early symptoms include:

As liver function worsens, symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will do a physical exam to look for:

Tests you may have include:

Tests to rule out other diseases include:

Treatment

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

Some things you can do to help take care of your liver disease are:

MEDICINES FROM YOUR DOCTOR

OTHER TREATMENTS

When cirrhosis progresses to end-stage liver disease, a liver transplant may be needed.

Support Groups

Many people benefit from joining support groups for alcoholism or liver disease.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Alcoholic liver disease is treatable if it is caught before it causes severe damage. However, continued excessive drinking can shorten your lifespan.

Cirrhosis further worsens the condition and can lead to serious complications. In case of severe damage, the liver cannot heal or return to normal function.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if you:

Get emergency medical help right away if you have:

Prevention

Talk openly to your provider about your alcohol intake. The provider can counsel you about how much alcohol is safe for you.

Related Information

Acute
Chronic
Cirrhosis
Alcohol use and safe drinking
Liver disease
Malabsorption
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Bleeding esophageal varices
Loss of brain function - liver disease
Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)
Cirrhosis - discharge

References

Asiedu DK, Ferri FF. Alcoholic hepatitis. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2018. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:59-60.

Carithers RL, McClain C. Alcoholic liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisinger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 86.

Haines EJ, Oyama LC. Disorders of the liver and biliary tract. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 80.

Hübscher SG. Alcohol-induced liver disease. In: Saxena R, ed. Practical Hepatic Pathology: A Diagnostic Approach. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 24.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 7/10/2017  

Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2019 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.