The initial stage involves the accumulation of fat in the liver cells, commonly known as fatty liver or steatosis. If the consumption of alcohol does not stop at this stage, it sometimes leads to alcoholic hepatitis. With continued alcohol consumption, the alcoholic liver disease progresses to severe damage to liver cells known as  “alcoholic cirrhosis.” Alcoholic cirrhosis is the stage described by progressive hepatic fibrosis and nodules. For more than a decade, alcoholic cirrhosis has been the second leading indication for liver transplantation in the U.S.

Is liver transplant an option for people with alcohol-associated liver disease?

For example, if a patient has cirrhosis due to alcohol use, we know that completely abstaining from alcohol can improve the function of the liver. And cirrhosis from hepatitis C was a major reason patients required liver transplants, but we now have medications, antiviral drugs, that are very effective at curing it. There’s evidence to suggest that getting rid of the hepatitis C can slow or maybe even help reverse some of the damage done. But there are instances when the liver disease is too advanced and medical interventions cannot reverse the process and that’s when we consider liver transplantation. Clinical features of AH include non-specific constitutional symptoms such as fatigue but may also include symptoms attributable to advanced liver disease.

alcoholic liver disease

Complications of alcohol-related liver disease

alcoholic liver disease

The most common sign of alcoholic hepatitis is yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, called jaundice. The yellowing of the skin might be harder to see on Black and brown people. Complications of liver disease depend on the cause of the liver problems. Without treatment, liver disease may progress to liver failure. Parasites and viruses can infect the liver, causing swelling and irritation, called inflammation. The viruses that cause liver damage can be spread through blood or semen, bad food or water, or close contact with a person who is infected.

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However, studies involving patients with liver disease from many distinct causes have shown convincingly that fibrosis and cirrhosis might have a component of reversibility. For patients with decompensated alcoholic cirrhosis who undergo transplantation, alcoholic liver disease survival is comparable to that of patients with other causes of liver disease with a 5-year survival of approximately 70%. Despite these encouraging data, there remain barriers at every level to use this treatment modality for AH.

Immune system condition

People with alcohol-related cirrhosis tend to have a less favorable prognosis, in part because the liver scarring cannot be reversed and additional complications may develop. For these patients, a liver transplant is often the best option. NAFLD is becoming more common, especially in Middle Eastern and Western nations as the number of people with obesity rises. NAFLD ranges in severity from hepatic steatosis, called fatty liver, to a more severe form of disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Compared with a healthy liver (top), a fatty liver (bottom) appears bigger and discolored.

alcoholic liver disease

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