What is alcoholic liver cirrhosis?
Alcoholic liver cirrhosis is scarring of the liver due to overgrowth of the fibrous tissue that replaces the damaged liver cells. Liver cirrhosis does not heal even after stopping drinking.
How common is alcoholic liver cirrhosis?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of alcoholic liver cirrhosis?
Individuals with early cirrhosis may have no symptoms and have normal blood tests. Otherwise, symptoms may include enlarged liver and, sometimes, spleen. Symptoms of advanced cirrhosis may include muscle wasting, weakness, anorexia, nausea, loss of weight and itching. Liver is usually not enlarged and may be even smaller than normal, due to scarring.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes alcoholic liver cirrhosis?
Damage from repeated and excessive alcohol abuse leads to alcoholic liver cirrhosis. When the liver tissue starts to scar, the liver doesn’t work as well as it did before. As a result, the body can’t produce enough proteins or filter toxins out of the blood as it should.
Cirrhosis of the liver can occur due to a variety of causes. However, alcoholic liver cirrhosis is directly related to alcohol intake.
What increases my risk for alcoholic liver cirrhosis?
There are many risk factors for alcoholic liver cirrhosis, such as:
- Drinking more than 5 standard drinks per day for men or more than 1.5 per day drinks for women for 10 years or more increases the risk of cirrhosis by 6-41% (depending on the country).
- Drinking on an empty stomach
- Everyday drinking
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is alcoholic liver cirrhosis diagnosed?
Doctors can diagnose alcoholic liver cirrhosis by first taking a medical history and discussing a person’s history of drinking. A doctor will also run some tests that can confirm a cirrhosis diagnosis. These results of these tests may show:
- Anemia (low blood levels due to too little iron)
- High blood ammonia level
- High blood sugar levels
- Leukocytosis (large amount of white blood cells)
- Unhealthy liver tissue when a sample is removed from a biopsy and studied in a laboratory
- Liver enzyme blood tests that show the level of aspartate aminotransferase (ast) is two times that of alanine aminotransferase (alt)
- Low blood magnesium levels
- Low blood potassium levels
- Low blood sodium levels
- Portal hypertension
Doctors will also try to rule out other conditions that may affect the liver to confirm that cirrhosis has developed.
How is alcoholic liver cirrhosis treated?
Doctors can reverse some forms of liver disease with treatment, but alcoholic liver cirrhosis usually can’t be reversed. However, your doctor can recommend treatments that may slow the disease’s progress and reduce your symptoms.
The first step in treatment is to help the person stop drinking. Those with alcoholic liver cirrhosis are often so dependent on alcohol that they could experience severe health complications if they try to quit without being in the hospital. A doctor can recommend a hospital or treatment facility where a person can start the journey toward sobriety.
Other treatments a doctor may use include:
- Medications: Other medications doctors may prescribe include corticosteroids, calcium channel blockers, insulin, antioxidant supplements, and S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe).
- Nutritional Counseling: Alcohol abuse can lead to malnutrition.
- Extra protein: Patients often require extra protein in certain forms to help reduce the likelihood for developing brain disease (encephalopathy).
- Liver Transplant: A person often must be sober for at least six months before they are considered a candidate for liver transplant.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage alcoholic liver cirrhosis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with alcoholic liver cirrhosis:
- Don’t drink alcohol. Whether your cirrhosis was caused by chronic alcohol use or another disease, avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol may cause further liver damage.
- Eat a low-sodium diet. Excess salt can cause your body to retain fluids, worsening swelling in your abdomen and legs. Use herbs for seasoning your food, rather than salt. Choose prepared foods that are low in sodium.
- Eat a healthy diet. Cirrhosis leads to malnutrition and loss of muscle. The best defense against this development is to maintain a healthy diet, with a variety of fruits and vegetables. You also need protein, contrary to outdated but still circulating advice to limit this food group if you have cirrhosis. Choose lean protein, such as legumes, poultry or fish. Avoid raw seafood.
- Avoid infections. Cirrhosis makes it more difficult for you to fight off infections. Protect yourself by washing your hands frequently. Also, get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, influenza, and pneumonia.
- Use over-the-counter medications carefully. Cirrhosis makes it more difficult for your liver to process drugs. For this reason, ask your doctor before taking any medications, including nonprescription drugs. Avoid drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others). If you have liver damage, your doctor may recommend you use a lower dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Cirrhosis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cirrhosis/home/ovc-20187218. Accessed July 13, 2017.
Alcoholic Liver Disease. http://www.nutrientsreview.com/alcohol/alcoholic-liver-disease-fatty-liver-hepatitis-cirrhosis.html. Accessed July 13, 2017.
Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis. http://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholic-liver-cirrhosis#overview1. Accessed July 13, 2017.
Review Date: July 13, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019