Alcoholic cirrhosis: Description, Causes and Risk Factors
Alternative Name: Scarring of the liver.
Alcoholism is a common problem with an estimated 17 to 20 million Americans suffering from alcoholism. Men are more commonly afflicted than women. Most people who consume alcohol do not suffer clinically significant damage to the liver. However, chronic excessive consumption of alcohol can cause a variety of liver problems including excess fat in the liver (fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation in the liver) and alcoholic cirrhosis (permanent scarring of the liver).
Alcoholic cirrhosis develops in approximately 15-20 percent of chronic alcoholics. This means that roughly one out of five people with heavy alcohol consumption will develop the devastating health problem of liver cirrhosis. Alcohol consumed by a person blocks the essential nutrients which one gets from food as it results in failure of the liver cells to absorb adequate nutrients from the intestinal tract. Thus, malnutrition contributes to aggravation of the liver disease and cause cirrhosis.
In addition, excess alcohol consumption increases the risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle), trauma (accidents occurring during drunkenness), and the development of fetal alcohol syndrome (damage to the unborn child from excess alcohol during pregnancy).
Symptoms of Alcoholic cirrhosis:
- Fatigue, slow, sluggish, lethargic movement.
- Dry mouth and excessive thirst.
- Fever, nausea, agitation, loss of appetite.
- Abdominal pain and tenderness.
- Fluid collection in the abdomen.
- Unintentional weight gain (due to water retention).
- Mental confusion, mood swing, hallucinations.
- Jaundice, abnormally dark or light skin.
- Presence of blood in feces, tarry bowel movements.
- Rapid heart rates, redness on feet and hands.
- Attention deficit, impaired ability to concentrate.
- Memory lapse, impaired memory.
- A number of cancers can be developed as a result of alcoholism, cancer of mouth, esophagus, stomach, and liver are the few commonly occurring ones.
Diagnosis of Alcoholic cirrhosis:
Blood tests and scans are usually very helpful in the evaluation of the liver, but a biopsy of the liver is often required to make the diagnosis of alcoholic cirrhosis and determine the cause. Using ultrasound radiography to measure liver stiffness is another way to do it.
A simple liver biopsy can confirm whether alcoholic liver disease has occurred. A liver biopsy is performed in the hospital or in a same day surgery clinic. Often the liver biopsy is performed with mild local anesthesia such as lidocaine or with mild sedatives given through the vein. The discomfort from the liver biopsy is usually mild and lasts only for a short time. Most patients can return to work the following day with only a restriction on heavy lifting and exercise.
The most important part in treatment of alcoholic cirrhosis is to stop drinking alcohol immediately. If cirrhosis has not yet occurred, the liver may have a chance to heal. Prognosis is determined by the degree of inflammation of the liver.
Treatment options may include:
Abstinence: Abstain from alcohol. Compliance can be difficult; a compassionate approach is the key. Patients need motivation, behavioral and psychosocial interventions can help. These include rehabilitation programs and support groups. Alcoholism medication, if used, should only supplement other interventions. To support abstinence from alcohol, it is paramount patients are given a nutritious diet with vitamin supplements. This is especially so during the first few days of abstinence. Diet may include high-carbohydrate, high-calorie diet to reduce protein breakdown in the body. Vitamins, especially B1 and folic acid, should be given to the patient. Alcohol withdrawal may require the use of benzodiazepines, or simply – Diazepam.
Specific Treatment: Patients who have severe cirrhosis may be given corticosteroids to improve their condition. Other than corticosteroids, antioxidants like metadoxine was found to be effective in ameliorating liver injury during early cirrhosis.
Liver Transplant: When all the above treatment fails, and the disease is at its critical stage, a liver transplantation may be considered. Advances in surgical procedures and medications to prevent infection and rejection of the transplanted liver have greatly improved survival after transplantation. 80% of patients who receive transplants are alive after five years.
Related: Alcohol Saliva Test
NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.