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Condition

Alcoholic Cirrhosis

Condition 101

What is the definition of Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Alcoholic liver disease is damage to the liver and its function due to alcohol abuse.

What are the alternative names for Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Liver disease due to alcohol; Cirrhosis or hepatitis - alcoholic; Laennec's cirrhosis

What are the causes for Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Alcoholic liver disease occurs after years of heavy drinking. Over time, scarring and cirrhosis can occur. Cirrhosis is the final phase of alcoholic liver disease.

Alcoholic liver disease does not occur in all heavy drinkers. The chances of getting liver disease go up the longer you have been drinking and more alcohol you consume. You do not have to get drunk for the disease to happen.

The disease is common in people between 40 and 50 years of age. Men are more likely to have this problem. However, women may develop the disease after less exposure to alcohol than men. Some people may have an inherited risk for the disease.

What are the symptoms for Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

There may be no symptoms, or symptoms may come on slowly. This depends on how well the liver is working. Symptoms tend to be worse after a period of heavy drinking.

Early symptoms include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Belly pain
  • Small, red spider-like blood vessels on the skin

As liver function worsens, symptoms may include:

  • Fluid buildup of the legs (edema) and in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Yellow color in the skin, mucous membranes, or eyes (jaundice)
  • Redness on the palms of the hands
  • In men, impotence, shrinking of the testicles, and breast swelling
  • Easy bruising and abnormal bleeding
  • Confusion or problems thinking
  • Pale or clay-colored stools

What are the current treatments for Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

Some things you can do to help take care of your liver disease are:

  • Stop drinking alcohol.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt.
  • Get vaccinated for diseases such as influenza, hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and pneumococcal pneumonia.
  • Talk to your provider about all medicines you take, including herbs and supplements and over-the-counter medicines.

MEDICINES FROM YOUR DOCTOR

  • "Water pills" (diuretics) to get rid of fluid buildup
  • Vitamin K or blood products to prevent excess bleeding
  • Medicines for mental confusion
  • Antibiotics for infections

OTHER TREATMENTS

  • Endoscopic treatments for enlarged veins in the esophagus (esophageal varices)
  • Removal of fluid from the abdomen (paracentesis)
  • Placement of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) to repair blood flow in the liver

When cirrhosis progresses to end-stage liver disease, a liver transplant may be needed. Liver transplantation for alcoholic liver disease is only considered in people who have completely avoided alcohol for 6 months.

What are the support groups for Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Many people benefit from joining support groups for alcoholism or liver disease.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Alcoholic liver disease is treatable if it is caught before it causes severe damage. However, continued excessive drinking can shorten your lifespan.

Cirrhosis further worsens the condition and can lead to serious complications. In case of severe damage, the liver cannot heal or return to normal function.

What are the possible complications for Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Complications may include:

  • Bleeding disorders (coagulopathy)
  • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites) and infection of the fluid (bacterial peritonitis)
  • Enlarged veins in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines that bleed easily (esophageal varices)
  • Increased pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension)
  • Kidney failure (hepatorenal syndrome)
  • Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)
  • Mental confusion, change in the level of consciousness, or coma (hepatic encephalopathy)

When should I contact a medical professional for Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Contact your provider if you:

  • Develop symptoms of alcoholic liver disease
  • Develop symptoms after a long period of heavy drinking
  • Are worried that drinking may be harming your health

Get emergency medical help right away if you have:

  • Abdominal or chest pain
  • Abdominal swelling or ascites that is new or suddenly becomes worse
  • A fever (temperature greater than 101°F, or 38.3°C)
  • Diarrhea
  • New confusion or a change in alertness, or it gets worse
  • Rectal bleeding, vomiting blood, or blood in the urine
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting more than once a day
  • Yellowing skin or eyes (jaundice) that is new or gets worse quickly

How do I prevent Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Talk openly to your provider about your alcohol intake. The provider can counsel you about how much alcohol is safe for you.

REFERENCES

Carithers RL, McClain CJ. Alcoholic liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 86.

Chalasani NP. Alcoholic and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 143.

Haines EJ, Oyama LC. Disorders of the liver and biliary tract. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 80.

Hübscher SG. Alcohol-induced liver disease. In: Saxena R, ed. Practical Hepatic Pathology: A Diagnostic Approach. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 24.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Liver Diseases
  • Journal: International journal of molecular sciences
  • Treatment Used: Adiponectin
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
The study researched the uses of Adiponectin between 2010 - 2020.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Acute Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) in Patient with COVID-19 and Decompensated Cirrhosis
  • Journal: BMJ case reports
  • Treatment Used: Intravenous Immunoglobulin and High-Dose Dexamethasone
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report discusses a patient with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and decompensated cirrhosis who experienced severe immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) treated with intravenous immunoglobulin and high-dose dexamethasone.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Journal: JAMA
  • Treatment Used: Intensive Lifestyle Intervention
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This article discusses nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the inflammatory subtype of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its disease progression, development of cirrhosis, and need for liver transplant.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Liver Cancer in Patients with Alcoholic Cirrhosis
  • Journal: Medicine
  • Treatment Used: Aspirin
  • Number of Patients: 949
  • Published —
In this study, researchers evaluated the ability of aspirin to prevent liver cancer in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis.