According to Mount Sinai Health, Alcoholic liver disease occurs when there is damage to the liver and its function due to alcohol abuse. Alcoholic liver disease occurs after years of heavy drinking. Over time, scarring and cirrhosis can occur. Cirrhosis means poor liver function. It is the last stage of alcoholic liver disease. The damage caused by cirrhosis is irreversible.
As you get older, the risk of getting liver disease increases the longer you have been drinking and the more alcohol you drink. Alcoholic liver disease often takes years to manifest. However, women may develop alcoholic liver disease faster since they process alcohol differently than men. Also, some people have an inherited risk for Alcoholic liver disease.
So how do you know if you have Alcoholic liver disease? Symptoms include abdominal pain and tenderness, dry mouth and increased thirst, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), loss of appetite, and nausea. Your skin may look abnormally dark or light. Your feet or hands may look red. You may notice small, red, spider-like blood vessels on your skin. You may have abnormal bleeding. Your stools might be dark, bloody, black, or tarry. You may have frequent nosebleeds or bleeding gums. You may vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
If you have symptoms, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor will probably test your blood, take a biopsy of the liver, and do a liver function test. You should also have other tests to rule out other diseases that could be causing your symptoms. Your symptoms may vary depending upon the severity of your disease. Usually, symptoms are worse after a recent period of heavy drinking. You may not even have symptoms until the disease is relatively advanced.
Alcoholic liver disease also can affect your brain and nervous system. Symptoms include agitation, changing mood, confusion, and pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation in your arms or legs. If you don’t have liver cirrhosis yet, your liver can actually heal itself, that is, if you stop drinking alcohol. You may need an alcohol rehabilitation program or counseling to break free from alcohol. Vitamins, especially B-complex vitamins and folic acid, can help reverse malnutrition. If cirrhosis develops, you will need to manage the problems it can cause. You may even need a liver transplant.
For more information visit MountSinai.org