Overview of alcoholic hepatitis
Alcoholic hepatitis is an infection of the liver. The main reason is the excessive and frequent consumption of alcohol. Fat accumulates in liver cells and this causes inflammation and scarring of the liver.
The infection can be mild or severe. A person may need a liver transplant if it is not treated in time or if they stop drinking alcohol.
Causes of alcoholic hepatitis
When alcohol gets processed in the liver, it produces highly toxic chemicals. These chemicals can injure liver cells. This injury then leads to inflammation and alcoholic hepatitis.
Although heavy alcohol use leads to alcoholic hepatitis, doctors aren’t entirely sure why the condition develops. Alcoholic hepatitis develops in a minority of people who heavily use alcohol no more than 35 per cent according to the American Liver Foundation. It can also develop in people who moderately use alcohol.
Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis
The following are common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis:
- Belly (abdomen) tenderness or pain over the liver.
- Vomiting blood or metal that looks like coffee grounds.
- Poor appetite.
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
- Weight loss.
- Tiredness and weakness
Alcoholic hepatitis usually develops over time with alcohol. But acute alcoholic hepatitis develops suddenly. This can quickly lead to liver failure and death.
The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis are similar to those of other conditions or health problems. Always consult a doctor for a diagnosis.
Since alcoholic hepatitis does not occur in all people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol, other factors can influence the development of this condition. In addition to:
- Genetic factors affect the way the body processes alcohol.
- The behaviour of liver diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and hemochromatosis.
- Developing alcoholic hepatitis
Women are at higher risk of getting alcoholic hepatitis. This may be due to differences in how men’s and women’s bodies absorb and break down alcohol.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for alcoholic hepatitis may include the following:
- Specific laboratory blood tests, such as the following:
- liver function studies
- blood cell counts
- bleeding times
- electrolyte tests
- tests for other chemicals in the body
- Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan). This process of imaging uses a mixture of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal or axial images of the body (often called fragmentary). The CT scan gives accurate images of any part of the body, including bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more accurate than regular X-rays.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequency encyclopedias, and computers to create detailed images of organs and structures in the body. The patient lay on a bed moving towards a cylindrical MRI machine. The machine takes a set of pictures of the inside of the body using a magnetic field and radio waves. Enhance computer-generated images. The test is painless and is not exposed to radiation. There should be no metal objects in the MRI room, so pacemakers or those with metal clips or rods inside the body cannot perform this test. All jewellery must be removed before the procedure.
It depends on the severity of the condition, but your doctor may prescribe it:
- Stop drinking alcohol. This is a very critical part of the treatment. If your alcoholic hepatitis is mild, you can reverse the disease. Your doctor can prescribe medications, treatments, and support groups to prevent or treat withdrawal symptoms.
- Change your diet. This may include following a low-sodium diet, as well as diuretics and vitamin supplements.
- If you have alcoholic hepatitis, you are at risk for a bacterial infection. Your doctor will look for infections and treat them if any appear.
- Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid medications to reduce liver inflammation.
If those treatments don’t work because your disease is very advanced, you may need a liver transplant.
May reduce the risk of alcoholic hepatitis:
- Drink alcohol in moderation. For healthy adults, drinking in moderation means one drink a day for women of all ages and men 65 and older, and two drinks a day for men 65 and younger.
- Protect yourself from hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease caused by a virus. Untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis. If you have hepatitis C and drink alcohol, you’re far more likely to develop cirrhosis than if you didn’t drink.
- Check before mixing medications and alcohol. Ask your doctor if it’s safe to drink alcohol when taking your prescription medications. Read the warning labels on over-the-counter medications. Don’t drink alcohol when taking medications that warn of complications when combined with alcohol especially pain relievers such as acetaminophen.