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Alcohol and Liver Damage

The most common risk of alcoholism is liver damage. Learn more about the effects of alcohol on the liver, and find out how you can get help for alcohol addiction today.

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Alcohol and the Liver

There are many medical risks that come with alcohol use disorder, ranging from high blood pressure to cancer and even stroke.

However, the health risk most commonly associated with alcohol use is its negative effects on the liver.
Due to the devastating effects of alcohol use on the liver, heavy drinkers are at a greatly increased risk of developing jaundice, cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and many other conditions.

The Definition of Heavy Drinking

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than eight drinks per week for women, and more than 15 per week for men.

Even one isolated binge drinking incident can result in alcohol poisoning, a range of negative health effects, and even death. 

The Effect of Alcohol on the Liver

The liver’s function is to break down and filter harmful substances out of the blood. It also makes proteins, hormones, and enzymes that the body uses to fight off infections and illness.
The liver is also responsible for cleaning the blood, storing glycogen for energy, and producing bile for digestive processes. The liver processes over 90 percent of alcohol that is consumed, and the rest exits the body via sweat, breathing, and urine.
The body takes approximately one hour to process an ounce of alcohol (an ounce of alcohol is equal to one shot of hard liquor, one glass of wine, or one beer). This time frame increases with each drink, and the more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes to process.
When a person drinks too much in a short space of time, the liver is unable to process the excess alcohol. This means that the alcohol left unprocessed by the liver starts to circulate in the bloodstream.
The alcohol in the blood starts to affect the heart and the brain, which results in the physical and mental effects of intoxication.
Chronic alcohol use destroys the liver cells, causing scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), alcoholic hepatitis, and cell damage that can lead to liver cancer.

Combining alcohol and medication can be very dangerous for the liver. It is imperative that anyone taking medication speaks to their physician before consuming alcohol. If you are taking medication, it is always best to abstain from drinking entirely. 

Medications that are particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol include antibiotics, blood thinners, sedatives, pain medications, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants.

Signs of Liver Disease

Heavy drinkers are at the most risk of developing liver disease. But even moderate drinkers, binge drinkers, and people who consume two or more drinks each day are at a greater risk of liver disease.

People who are genetically predisposed to liver problems, or who develop an infection of some sort while drinking regularly, are also at risk.

Alcoholic hepatitis – inflammation in the liver that causes liver degeneration – can go on to develop into cirrhosis. This may even be fatal.
The only good news is that fatty liver disease and alcoholic hepatitis are usually reversible with abstinence.
Symptoms of liver disease include:
  • Jaundice, which is apparent by a yellow tinge to the skin and eyes
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, and abdomen
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Itchy skin
  • Tendency to bruise easily
  • Chronic fatigue and weakness
  • Fever
  • Disorientation and incoherence 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale, bloody, or tar-colored stool
Liver disease caused by alcohol is entirely avoidable. Most sources state that moderate alcohol consumption for women is one drink per day and two for men.
There is no one type of alcohol that is deemed safer for the liver, regardless of alcohol content.

Treatment for Liver Disease

Most types of liver damage are reversible if you stop drinking or take other steps to treat it:
  • Fatty liver disease: Reversible with abstinence
  • Alcoholic hepatitis: Reversible with abstinence
  • Cirrhosis: Needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Abstinence may help, although cirrhosis is often fatal due to secondary complications, such as kidney failure.
  • Liver cancer: Also needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. May be irreversible and fatal due to factors such as the cancer spreading, or secondary complications.

Although many heavy drinkers are diagnosed with cirrhosis each year, the majority of those with this disease survive if they seek alcohol addiction treatment

If you or a loved one have an alcohol addiction and symptoms of liver damage, it is important to get help as soon as possible.
At Addiction Rehab Treatment, we specialize in helping people find the perfect recovery center for their needs. We are available to help you 24/7. Get in touch with us today and get your life back on track.

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