There are three types of liver disease that are caused by alcohol abuse. They are fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis. These illnesses can be avoided if one drinks occasionally, but if one is a frequent drinker or alcoholic, these diseases may be part of their future. Damage to the liver is of serious concern.
The liver provides a variety of functions for the body. The liver stores glycerin, processes fats and proteins, processes medicines, and produces bile. When you drink, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and the intestines. Blood goes through the liver to be processed before it circulates through the body. Alcohol goes to the liver at the most concentrated level. Liver cells breakdown the alcohol, but can only process so much per hour. The more alcohol you drink the more it affects the liver. Small amounts of alcohol like one to two units a day will not have a detrimental effect on the liver, but more than that can. This is where fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis can occur.
A fatty liver occurs when a buildup of fat takes place in the liver cells. The fatty liver is the least serious damage that can be caused to the liver through alcohol. It can be reversed if alcohol consumption is lessened or stopped completely.
Alcohol hepatitis is a more serious disorder for the liver that happens with excessive alcohol consumption. Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and can be mild to severe. A mild form may not show any symptoms, but there may be a higher level of liver enzymes detected in the blood. If drinking continues, a mild case may become a sever one. Sever hepatitis can show symptoms of feeling ill, jaundice, generally feeling unwell, and pain in the area of the liver. And then there are the most severe symptoms that can lead to liver failure. The previous symptoms plus blood clotting problems, confusion, and internal bleeding can also occur and often lead to death. Alcohol hepatitis can be treated by not drinking and proper nutrition, but it cannot be reversed.
Alcohol cirrhosis is the final form of liver disease caused by excessive alcohol consumption. With this disease, liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue. The scarring takes place gradually. As the scarring occurs, the liver cells are damaged and die. This causes the liver to not be able to perform its functions for the body. One in every ten heavy drinkers will experience this disease. It begins to show its effects after about ten years of drinking. It often leads to end stage liver disease or liver failure. If it is caught at its early stages, it can be treated, but symptoms don't often appear until it is too late. The scarring that takes place can never be reversed.
It is important to be aware of the damage that can be caused to the liver from alcohol. Social or occasional drinkers will likely not experience these alcohol related liver diseases. Chronic or heavy drinkers can look forward to experiencing one or more of these ailments. Alcohol abuse will damage the liver, but addressing an alcohol problem can keep this from happening or lessen its effects.