Does Alcohol Cause Cirrhosis Of The Liver?
The liver is in charge of detoxing harmful substances and moving them out of the body. It also purifies the blood and produces vital nutrients. Many people believe that alcohol causes cirrhosis. Excessive alcohol consumption is indeed a common cause of cirrhosis. However, cirrhosis can also be caused by fatty liver disease and viral hepatitis B and C.
What Is Cirrhosis Of The Liver?
Cirrhosis of the liver is a progressive disease that results from long-term and continuous damage to the liver. Long-term liver damage causes the liver to become inflamed and riddled with scar tissue. This blocks the flow of blood through the liver and makes it difficult for the liver to remove toxins. As cirrhosis progresses, there can be yellowing of the skin, eyes and tongue (jaundice), itching, extreme exhaustion and a whole host of other unpleasant symptoms. Scarring of the liver is irreversible. When the liver becomes too damaged to function any more, liver failure is the result.
How Does Cirrhosis Develop?
When damage to the liver is mild and not ongoing, the liver can usually repair itself and return to full function. However, when the damage is serious and ongoing, it becomes increasingly difficult for the liver to regenerate itself and do its job. Over time, healthy liver tissue turns into fibrous scar tissue with nodules. The nodules are lumps on the liver caused by damaged tissue that’s trying to regenerate itself.
What Happens To The Liver When Alcohol Causes Cirrhosis?
The first stage of alcoholic liver disease is a fatty liver. If someone with a fatty liver stops the heavy drinking, the liver can still repair itself. If heavy drinking continues, the person may develop stage two of alcoholic liver disease which is alcoholic hepatitis. If drinking still continues, the person may develop the third stage of alcoholic liver disease which is cirrhosis.
Excessive alcohol intake over a long period of time damages the liver by producing scar tissue that interferes with the liver’s detoxing function. The more overworked the liver is, the more scar tissue it will develop. The more scar tissue that develops, the more difficult it is for the liver to do its job. Even heavy social drinkers who are not alcoholics can be at risk for cirrhosis, and women are especially vulnerable. In most cases, alcohol causes cirrhosis in those who have been drinking heavily for ten years or more.
What Are The Symptoms Of Cirrhosis?
In the early stages of cirrhosis, there are usually no symptoms. Indications of something wrong become noticeable only as the disease progresses. Early symptoms include:
o Pain and tenderness in the liver area
o Weight loss
o No appetite
o Itchy skin
o Capillaries that are visible on the upper abdomen
o Blotchy red palms
As the condition progresses, the symptoms get worse. The symptoms below are typical of the later stages of alcoholic liver disease. There are many other symptoms as well:
o Bleeding gums
o Edema on ankles, feet and legs
o Vomiting blood
o Large tummy
o Rapid heartbeat
o Reduced body mass
o Black tarry stools
o Bleeding from the mouth
What Is The Right Treatment When Alcohol Causes Cirrhosis?
If you have been diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis, your liver is too damaged to repair itself. Your life expectancy and quality of life will depend on how well you take care of yourself from this point on. Alcohol should be eliminated entirely and a healthy lifestyle implemented. Some people with cirrhosis opt to receive liver transplants. Others are placed on medications that may reduce some of the symptoms.