Alcohol Effects on the Liver
The liver is very susceptible to alcohol toxicity. There is no exact relationship between how much it’s necessary to drink to get a alcohol-related liver disease. This varies depending on the body.
For example, studies in Italy have shown that the risk of liver disease increases by consuming about 3.8 units per day, and the more alcohol consumer, the greater the risk. But in China, research has shown that the chances to get liver disease doubles after consuming 2.5 units a day while the risk does not increase with each additional unit.
For women, liver damage due to alcohol is much more frequent (almost 50%) than for men.
- Body Mass Index
Being overweight or a tendency to obesity increases the risk of disease.
- Drinking Habits
If alcohol is only consumed during a meal, the risk of getting a liver disease is lower.
- Other Illnesses
For example, diabetes complicates the course and prognosis of liver disease.
How Liver Disease progresses
There are three alcohol liver diseases: alcohol toxic hepatitis is an acute illness while fatty liver disease (obesity) and liver cirrhosis are chronic. The form of the disease is determined by its progression – whether the disease has developed over a few days, months or years.
Acute Toxic Hepatitis
This disease occurs after prolonged (months, sometimes several months) alcohol use. Symptoms of the disease are feeling unwell, decreased appetite or loss of appetite, high temperature, jaundice, confusion. Alcohol hepatitis is curable. If a person stops drinking and starts treatment, this condition is reversible in 75% of cases. However, the disease may progress to liver cirrhosis.
Fatty Liver Disease
The cause of this disease is regular and prolonged alcohol abuse. The disease may start without any symptoms. Usually liver enlargement and changes in blood biochemical analysis occurs. Only in select cases can the situation become critical. In this case, the most important thing is to abstain from alcohol and the situation will improve. The disease is not curable with medication! Sometimes it can be particularly severe and cause death.
Most patients with liver cirrhosis do not pay attention to the early symptoms of the disease. They tend to be minor, including weight loss, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. For those who drink a lot, early identification could help before the disease has reached a later stage. The main cirrhosis-related problem is that the connective tissue in the liver proliferates, and the normal liver cells die – meaning that the liver gradually loses its ability to perform its functions.
In the late stages, the symptoms may appear due to complications (disease complications):
- Elevated liver arterial pressure (portal pressure). It manifests itself as bleeding from the oesophagus veins and ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity)
- Encephalopathy caused by the inability of the liver to remove toxins from the blood
- Formation of cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma is also possible
If you want to make sure that your drinking habits have left no impact on your liver, it is best to visit your family doctor.