Alcoholic liver damage: causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Excessive alcohol consumption is recognized as the most common cause of diseases of an organ such as the liver. The constant consumption of alcohol or a single consumption of large quantities of the drink significantly increases the risk of fatty liver, inflammation or cirrhosis of this organ. Symptoms of alcoholic liver damage do not appear for a long time, pain and discomfort usually occur as the disease progresses.

Alcoholic liver damage is a condition that develops as a result of consuming alcohol on a regular basis and essentially ethyl alcohol (ethanol). Depending on the dosage of alcohol consumed, genetic conditions, liver damage caused by alcohol is subdivided into: obesity of the liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.

All these diseases differ in course, symptoms, prognosis, method of treatment, but their common feature is the cause, that is, alcohol abuse.

Alcoholic steatosis occurs in 90 percent of alcohol abusers. It is characterized by the accumulation of fat (fatty droplets) in the liver cells. Avoiding alcohol makes the disease go away, but underestimating the condition can lead to liver cirrhosis over time.

Alcoholic hepatitis is characterized by steatosis , degeneration, inflammation, and progressive liver fibrosis. The inflammation can be of varying severity. Alcohol abstinence with mild to moderate inflammation leads to regression. Unfortunately, severe alcoholic hepatitis has a poor prognosis.

Alcoholic cirrhosis is a condition in which fibrosis reaches such a high intensity that the anatomical structure of the liver is completely blurred. Ischemia results in liver cell necrosis and progressive loss of active parenchyma, and ultimately liver dysfunction. Cirrhosis is the last stage of chronic liver disease.


The liver is the main site of the metabolism of ethyl alcohol, therefore, its excessive use negatively affects this organ in the first place.

The mechanism for removing ethyl alcohol from the body is its oxidation to aldehyde and acetic acid. However, this process leads to an imbalance in the processes of oxidation and reduction in the cell and the occurrence of the so-called oxidative stress, which is considered the main damaging factor in the liver.


Uncomplicated fatty liver disease does not show symptoms for a long time. However, over time, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal discomfort caused by an enlarged liver.

However, alcoholic hepatitis can present with jaundice, fever, edema, ascites, and signs of liver failure.

The most serious disease, cirrhosis, is characterized by many symptoms. Patients with severe liver damage have symptoms such as jaundice, low-grade fever, edema of the extremities, ascites, esophageal varices, and neurological disorders in the form of hepatic encephalopathy.

Warning! Do you notice the symptoms mentioned above? Be sure to stop drinking alcohol and see your doctor.


The entire diagnostic process of alcohol injury begins with the patient’s confirmation of alcohol consumption. To do this, fill out a special form.

Alcoholic liver damage is diagnosed on the basis of: ultrasound of the abdominal cavity, liver functional testing, liver biopsy (not always used), liver elastography .


The mainstay of treatment is to simply stop drinking alcohol. With steatosis or mild hepatitis, the effects are reversible and the disease disappears. However, in the case of severe hepatitis or cirrhosis, the prognosis is not favorable even after a complete cessation of alcohol use.

If cirrhosis of the liver leads to the reconstruction of this organ, then this condition is irreversible and, unfortunately, progressive. The speed of this process is very individual, but it can be very high for people who drink alcohol. The development of organ damage can be pharmacologically suppressed, although liver transplantation is the final stage of treatment and in fact the only effective one.

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