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Alcoholic Hepatitis

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As the name suggests, alcoholic hepatitis is a kind of hepatitis induced by drinking too much alcohol. It is an inflammatory condition that causes swelling of the liver. Quite sadly, about 35% of binge drinkers suffer from alcoholic hepatitis. However, the condition is not limited only to heavy drinkers; in fact moderate drinkers can also be a sufferer considering the prevalence of other risk factors.  


Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis

Characteristic symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include: 

  • Jaundice- yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feeling weak, tired and sick
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain and swelling in abdomen
  • Swelling of ankles

If the disease has progressed to a serious stage then you can experience confusion and drowsiness, blood vomiting and bloody stool, heavy bloating of the belly and abnormal weight loss.


Causes of alcoholic hepatitis

Alcoholic drinks contain ethanol, which is broken down by your body to acetaldehyde- a highly toxic compound for your liver. Presence of too much acetaldehyde in your body eventually starts damaging the hepatic cells.

Your risk increases to developing this alcoholic liver disease with having other types of hepatitis infections and poor nutrition. If you already have a genetic problem with alcohol metabolism then you can easily succumb to alcoholic hepatitis. Furthermore, quite certainly risk again magnifies with increased consumption of alcohol and being overweight.

Complications of alcoholic hepatitis

The most obvious complications of alcoholic hepatitis are liver cirrhosis and liver damage. Apart from that it can cause hepatic encephalopathy and induce hypertension in the portal vein. There are cases where death has occurred due to severe jaundice. It’s important to note that kidney failure is also a major complication of alcoholic hepatitis.


Diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis

Your doctor will firs evaluate the symptom and ask you for detailed information about your drinking habits. Let your doctor know if you had liver problems previously or have any other health complication. From this initial diagnosis, your doctor can find out if you have developed alcoholic hepatitis.

To confirm the disease, you will have to undergo imaging tests like ultrasonography, x ray, MRI or CT scan of the liver along with liver function tests. A complete blood count test would be recommended. Other blood tests (e.g. vitamin deficiency test) and imaging tests for the kidneys and abdomen may be suggested, depending on the need.


Treatment of alcoholic hepatitis

The first plan of action would be to STOP drinking alcohol. Secondary treatment options would depend on the underlying cause of alcohol induced hepatitis. If malnutrition has been found out, then your doctor would plan out a diet for you.

You may be retained in the hospital if you have severe alcoholic hepatitis, because nutritional support would be provided in the hospital. Drugs are not usually used in the treatment plan, nonetheless your doctor might prescribe corticosteroids to manage the inflammation.

Lastly, liver transplant is the solution for a damaged liver.


Self care for alcoholic hepatitis

People who have gotten rid of their drinking habits completely have experienced dramatic improvement in their health. Giving up drinking overnight is not easy, thus you need counselling and support to achieve your goal.

Lastly, stick to the balanced diet plan as recommended by your doctor. Eat foods low in salt, include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to improve the functioning of your liver.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: may 31, 2014

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