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The Symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Disease

The Symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Disease

By Paul Garrigan
Alcohol is a common cause of cirrhosis and if left untreated can lead to death. It is important to spot the signs quickly and cease further abuse.

Individuals who regularly drink too much alcohol over a long period are at risk of health problems including alcoholic liver disease. Alcohol can have a damaging effect on the liver and if this goes beyond a certain point it leads to a condition called cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis can be caused due to a number of different reasons but one of the most common is alcoholic liver disease. If alcohol liver disease is allowed to progress it will eventually lead to death.
What are the Symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Disease?

The symptoms of alcoholic liver disease can vary between individuals, and many will not notice any real symptoms until the disease is quite advanced. This lack of symptoms means that cirrhosis might be well under way before the drinker even realizes that there is a problem. As the disease progresses the following symptoms might be noted;

* Jaundice (this is a yellowing of the skin and eyes due to a failure of the liver to metabolise bilirubin)
* Pain/tenderness around the abdominal area
* A frequent feeling of thirst/ dry mouth
* Sudden weight gain/ appearance of water accumulation in the body (ascites)
* Tiredness
* The development of breasts in men
* Feces containing blood
* Mental confusion/agitation
* Fever
* Loss of appetite
* Nausea/vomiting
* Red hands or feet

These different symptoms will appear in different levels of severity and an individual could go a long time without noticing anything. Alternatively they might rationalize the symptoms of alcoholic liver disease as being caused by something else.
What should an individual do if they experience the symptoms of alcoholic liver disease?

Unfortunately a lot of damage can already have occurred to the liver by the time symptoms appear. It is important that alcoholic liver disease gets noticed as early as possible because the sooner it is treated the more hopeful is the prognosis. The most important aspect of treating alcoholic liver disease is to stop further alcohol abuse. The liver can withstand a lot of damage and still be able to repair itself but once it gets beyond a certain stage it can no longer do this. The body needs a functioning liver in order to survive.

Alcoholic liver disease is a risk for those people who abuse alcohol over an extended period of time. It can lead to cirrhosis and if left untreated can lead to death. The symptoms of alcoholic liver disease might not appear until a lot of damage has already occurred. People need to seek treatment for the condition as soon as possible to increase their chances of survival.


Sources

Medline Plus article – Alcoholic Liver Disease (accessed 12th June 2010)

Patient UK article – Alcohol and Liver Disease (accessed 12th June 2010)

NHS Choices article – Alcoholic Liver Disease (accessed 12th June 2010)


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