When drinking is involved, the liver can take quite a hit. The liver’s functions are vital for our body to live. Heavy drinking can lead to multiple types of liver damage including: fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, or alcoholic cirrhosis. Continuation of heavy drinking can be fatal when the liver is concerned. If you are having signs and symptoms of a damaged liver from drinking, get the help you need.
Heavy Drinking And The Liver
Heavy drinking, especially in the media’s eyes, is promoted as fun and light-hearted, but what they don’t see is the truth behind their promotion of this type of lifestyle. While it doesn’t happen to all heavy drinkers, liver disease is a looming giant that affects the lives of many who drink heavily over the years. Scarring and cirrhosis can start to develope. The chances of getting liver disease skyrocket the longer alcohol is consumed–and the scary thing is, you don’t have to binge drink for this type of disease to occur. Family genetics can play a huge factor when it comes to liver disease, and women may develop this far easier than men.
Symptoms may pop up out of the blue for some people, or they could be a slow build. According to each person’s liver, it could be different, and how long and how often they have been drinking.
What Are Early Symptoms Of Liver Problems?
- Fatigue and energy loss
- Small, red spider-like blood vessels on the skin
- Belly pain or nausea
- Poor appetite and weight loss
What Are Worse Liver Symptoms?
- Fluid build up of the legs (edema) and in the abdomen (ascites)
- Confusion or problems thinking properly
- Easy bruising and unusual bleeding
- Redness on the palms of the hands
- Yellow color in the skin, mucous membranes, or eyes (jaundice)
- In men, impotence, breast swelling, and shrinking of the testicles
- Pale or clay-colored stools
What Does The Liver Do?
At the weight of 3.3 pounds, the liver is the biggest organ in the body. Located in the upper right and a part of the left abdomen, the liver resides. This organ is prominent for life to flow through our bodies. Blood is circulated properly through the liver, destroying toxins that build up.
Bile is released into the small intestine, in order for fats to digest, and to make them dissolved for absorption. The portal vein, from the small intestine, takes these nutrients to the liver, creating cholesterol, storing or metabolizing sugars, storing vitamins, processing fats, and distributes proteins in other places or in the liver. Converting the protein metabolism into urea for the kidneys to excrete, is another job of the liver, as well as regulating blood-clotting workings. To protect itself, the liver will organize a cellular arsenal or chemical as well. The liver is a very efficient, self-healing, organ that helps maintain many functions.
How Do I Protect My Liver?
Making lifestyle changes is key if you want to protect your liver from liver disease or damage from alcohol.
- Talk to your doctor about all medicines you consume, including herbs and supplements and over-the-counter medicines.
- Drink less alcohol.
- Get vaccinated for diseases such as influenza, hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and pneumococcal pneumonia.
- Eat a healthy, low in salt diet.
What Can Alcohol Do To The Liver?
Complications can easily form when it comes to alcohol and the liver. Drinking in heavy amounts can shorten your life. Bleeding, severe liver damage, and brain changes are a risk when it comes to heavy drinking. Cirrhosis is formed from scarring of the liver, and in some instances the liver’s damage will not heal if it’s too severe.
These are some of the things that can occur with alcohol and liver damage:
- Mental confusion, change in the level of consciousness, or coma (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Bleeding disorders (coagulopathy)
- Enlarged veins in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines that bleed easily (esophageal varices)
- Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites) and infection of the fluid (bacterial peritonitis)
- Kidney failure (hepatorenal syndrome)
- Increased pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension)
- Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)
Far too many of heavy drinkers end up developing a severe liver disease. Heredity, diet, gender, and co-occurring liver illness have strong influences over cirrhosis and hepatitis. Liver damage is generally associated with alcohol metabolism, and can also be from the byproducts of alcohol as well. Over 200 years ago, liver disease and heavy alcohol drinking started to be linked together.
The top cause of illness and death from liver disease, in the United States, is heavy usage of alcohol. When alcohol is being broken down, within the liver, a variety of potentially toxic byproducts are created–called free radicals. Alcohol alone may not be the only reason for development of liver disease, but these free radicals have a huge part. The liver is an organ that regenerates itself, and it can take quite a bit of extensive abuse to wear it down. Roughly 72 ounces of beer, 8 oz of distilled spirits, 1 liter of wine, or 5-6 drinks a day for twenty years is what can cause much of this damage. For women, this amount can be only just one-fourth to one half of what it is for men.
What Are The Types Of Alcohol-induced Liver Damage?
When it comes to alcohol-induced liver damage there are several things to look at.
In nearly all heavy drinkers, there is a certain amount of fat deposition. Even in nonalcoholics, with a single drink, these fatty deposits can occur. Fatty liver is thankfully reversible, and doesn’t necessarily end up doing serious damage to the individual.
To define what this means is simple: a widespread inflammation and destruction of the liver tissue. A buildup of scar tissue may start to overtake the thriving liver tissue; this is called fibrosis. Alcoholic hepatitis may show symptoms such as: jaundice, fever, or abdominal pain. This can be fatal, but can be reversed with sobriety. Up to 50% of heavy alcohol consumers end up with alcoholic hepatitis.
This liver disease is the the most progressed form, and is discovered in 15 to 30 percent of heavy alcohol consumers. 40 to 90 percent of 26,000 yearly deaths from cirrhosis are linked with alcohol. When the liver is cirrhotic, it stiffens blood vessels and messes with the structure internally of the liver. This type of damage can lead to even more damaging results such as: damage to the kidneys or brain. Even though this type of liver damage is fatal, it can still improve with abstinence.
Though these three types of liver damage seem to go in order, an individual can develop cirrhosis without the other two. Though hepatitis may have a quick and rapid impact, becoming fatal before cirrhosis starts to happen.
Is Damage To The Liver Reversible?
The liver is an amazing organ, that heals damaged tissue with fresh, new cells–instead of scar tissue. An example would be, if a person took too many Tylenol, which can damage over half of an individual’s liver cells in a week’s time. The liver would generally repair the damage fully within a month, and that person would show no results of the damage done. The liver can get overly damaged though, especially when concerning an attack from drugs, a virus, or alcohol. This can lead to scar tissue which can result in cirrhosis.
You Don’t Have To Fight Alone
Facing liver damage does not need to be done alone. We are here to help support you or your loved ones with the effects of alcoholism. If you are experiencing liver damage symptoms reach out for help today. It’s never too late to get the help you or a loved one needs. Please contact us at DrugRehab.org today.
For More Information Related to “What Does Alcohol Do to Your Liver?” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:
- What is Alcoholic Hepatitis?
- Alcohol Rehab Centers and Treatment Programs For Alcoholism
- Understanding Alcohol Addiction
- Alcohol Effects – What Happens To Your Body
- Alcohol Addiction Quiz