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It‌ ‌takes‌ ‌ONLY‌ ‌6‌ ‌months‌ ‌to‌ ‌develop‌ ‌alcoholic‌ ‌hepatitis.‌ ‌Here’s‌ ‌how‌ ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌avoid‌ ‌it‌ ‌

Published on:3 August 2021, 12:08pm IST
Love drinking alcohol but don't know when to stop? You could be at a risk of alcoholic hepatitis, a condition that is caused by the inflammation of the liver. Read on to know more
Dr Swapnil Sharma
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alcoholic hepatitis
Keep a watch on your alcohol intake. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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If you think you can get away with regular consumption of alcohol, you’re highly mistaken. Alcohol can slowly and steadily damage your liver and can even cost you your life. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to inflammation of the liver, giving rise to a condition called ‘alcoholic hepatitis.’ Sadly, in some instances, people who consume alcohol even in moderate quality can also be affected with this disease.

In India alone, 40% of individuals who have alcoholic hepatitis die within six months of experiencing symptoms.

Also, read: Alcohol use and diabetes: Here’s why this combination can be dangerous

Therefore, it is significant to understand the repercussions of alcohol abuse on the liver. 

How does alcohol affect the body?

The liver is an essential organ of the human body. Its primary role is to convert food and drinks to beneficial nutrients, thereby helping in digestion by producing bile. It also filters poisonous and harmful substances, such as alcohol and drugs, from the blood. 

alcoholic hepatitis
Consuming alcohol can negatively impact your body. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Every alcoholic drink like beer, wine, whiskey has an element called ethyl alcohol or ethanol, the only type which is suitable for human consumption. Even though ethanol is consumed by millions worldwide, it is still harmful for the body. It affects the central nervous system, causing a lapse in judgment and coordination, thus bringing about intoxication. 

Also, read: Is it safe to drink alcohol after getting the Covid-19 vaccine? Let’s find out

Excessive and regular alcohol consumption can affect the liver in two ways: acute hepatitis and chronic liver disease. Acute hepatitis is inflammation of the liver due to alcohol consumption. Long term alcohol consumption can cause alcohol-related fatty liver, which may progress into NASH. Over time, there is scarring of healthy liver tissue. The condition is known as cirrhosis or irreversible scarring. 

This leads to liver failure, and the patient may require a transplant. 

Symptoms of alcoholic liver
  • Loss of appetite, a significant amount of drinking diminishes one’s hunger as alcohol becomes the primary calorie source
  • Yellowing of skin, jaundice
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Easy bleeding
  • Weight loss

This may progress into:

  • Accumulation of excess fluid in the upper body (ascites)
  • Behaviour changes, confused state of mind
  • Drowsiness, slurred speech
  • Liver and kidney failure.

Another extreme condition like hepatic encephalopathy might also arise. Toxins generally filtered by the liver end up in the bloodstream, which in turn, causes brain damage and coma. 

alcoholic hepatitis
Heavy drinkers and alcoholics may progress from fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Below are a few risk factors associated with alcoholic hepatitis:

  • Genetic factors
  • Obesity 
  • Pre-existing liver infections like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, etc.

Medical practitioners suggest the following to conclude a diagnosis:

  • Liver function test measures the level of liver enzymes
  • Ultrasound or contrast CT abdomen – to see the current status of liver
  • If required: Liver biopsy to understand the complexity of the disease
Treatment 

This requires stopping alcohol consumption altogether. Alcohol must be replaced with a healthy diet filled with vitamins. Sometimes, the only shot at survival for a patient is a transplant.

Many times people who are alcoholic or consume it in higher quantities may not even realize their condition, until it’s too late. And getting a transplant done is not so easy. It takes immense waiting time to find a matching donor.  Moreover, alcohol abuse not only affects the person physically and mentally but also their loved ones, leading to a lot of trauma and healthcare costs. Hence, avoiding alcohol consumption is the most healthy way of life.

Dr Swapnil Sharma Dr Swapnil Sharma

Dr Swapnil Sharma, Consultant Liver Transplant and HPB Surgery Fortis Hospital Mulund