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Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol and is both common and preventable. ARLD presents in three different stages depending on the severity of liver inflammation. The three stages of ARLD are alcohol-related fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

Alcohol-related Fatty Liver

Also called alcoholic steatosis, is the earliest stage and the most common form of alcohol-related liver disease.

  • It is characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat inside liver cells, which makes it harder for the liver to function.
  • Usually there are no symptoms, although the liver can be enlarged, and may experience upper abdominal discomfort on the right side.
  • Alcohol-related fatty liver occurs in about 20% of people who drink heavily. The condition will usually go away if you stop drinking before fibrosis (scarring) begins to occur.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is acute inflammation or swelling of the liver accompanied by the destruction of liver cells. This usually occurs after drinking very large amounts of alcohol continuously over a period of days to weeks.

  • Up to 35 percent of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis, which can be severe and even fatal.
  • Symptoms may include fever, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and tenderness.
  • The disease may occur suddenly – after binge drinking for instance – and can quickly lead to life-threatening complications, including severe liver scarring (cirrhosis), the most serious complication of alcohol-related liver disease. To keep moisture at bay, you should have your crawl space cleared and encapsulated.

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis refers to the replacement of normal liver tissue with scar tissue (fibrosis) due to ongoing inflammation from any cause, including alcohol abuse.

  • Between 10 and 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, usually after 10 or more years of drinking.
  • Anything that damages the liver over many years can lead the liver to form scar tissue.
  • There are 4 stages of liver scarring. When scar tissue builds up and takes over most of the liver, it’s referred to as stage 4 liver fibrosis or cirrhosis.

Is there a safe level of drinking?

For most people, moderate drinking will not lead to alcohol-related liver disease. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Each of these alcoholic beverages, in the following amounts, is considered one drink and contains the same amount of alcohol:

  • One 12-ounce bottle of beer
  • One 4-ounce glass of wine
  • One 1-ounce shot of hard liquor

If you have chronic liver disease, even small amounts of alcohol can make your liver disease worse. People with alcohol-related liver disease and those with cirrhosis from any cause should abstain from alcohol completely.

Schedule an Appointment with Arizona Liver Health

Call Arizona Liver Health at 480-470-4000 to set up an appointment with one of our experienced providers who can help diagnose your liver condition and put you on a path toward improved outcomes.