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Gastroenterology and hepatology

Gastroenterology and hepatology

Alcohol liver disease is one of the largest causes of liver disease in Western countries today, and if the warning signs are headed and the causes are reversed, the liver has the capability to regenerate itself even after being significantly abused and damaged. The condition called fatty liver may develop in a person who consumes large quantities of alcohol over an extended period of time, and fortunately the condition may be reversible. The key is to catch it in time before extensive damage occurs, and unfortunately because of the liver’s resilience, symptoms might not become noticeable until the condition is beyond hope.

Alcohol liver disease can be described as coming in three distinct phases. The first would be fatty liver disease, and though it may happen to individuals who drink very little, called nonalcoholic fatty liver, in this case it can occur even during a short period of heavy drinking. Basically it is caused by overwhelming the liver so it is unable to properly metabolize the alcohol as it is consumed. When the liver is allowed to take a break, so to speak, it can recover and begin to mend itself. Again, because this phase rarely comes with symptoms, there is nothing to really tell you when you are approaching the danger zone.

Without giving your liver a break, you may fall into phase two, or alcohol hepatitis. This can occur because of binge drinking, but more commonly happens over a period of time and is marked by inflammation of the liver tissues. The condition is in most cases reversible, but may take several months or years of staying totally away from alcohol. Symptoms may include, especially as the condition continues to develop, loss of appetite, yellowing skin, abdominal tenderness, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting.

Which brings us to the final phase of alcohol liver disease, and that is cirrhosis. When the liver tissues have been inflamed over a long period of time, scarring can develop, and can render the liver dysfunctional if a large percentage of the organ become damaged. It is thought that about 10-20% of all heavy drinkers will develop cirrhosis of the liver, and this condition is not reversible.

When the organ can no longer carry out its function of detoxification of chemicals in the body, the only option is to quit drinking entirely. Then just hope that there will be enough liver to function to the point of keeping you alive, or go through a liver transplant. There is a long waiting list at virtually all hospitals for livers suitable for transplant, and one of the criteria for becoming eligible is to be completely without alcohol for a minimum of six months. A few of the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver are tiredness and weakness, loss of appetite and weight loss, pain in the liver area, the skin becomes easily bruised, and fluid build-up in the legs and ankles.

Alcohol is one of the chief reasons for liver failure causes, and everyone who drinks more than in moderation should be aware of the risks and danger signs. Maintaining a healthy liver, which performs so many functions, is necessary to give it every chance possible to do its job properly.

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