Alcohol induced hepatitis, also known as acute alcoholic hepatitis is a form of alcoholic liver disease (ALD).
Alcohol induced hepatitis is a major cause of liver cirrhosis in first world countries.
What is Liver Cirrhosis?
Liver cirrhosis is a condition where the liver becomes scarred and the scar tissue replaces healthy tissue.
It then blocks the flow of blood to the liver which impairs the liver’s ability to remove bacteria and toxins from the blood, protect from infection, help with blood clotting, produce bile and absorb nutrients.
If the person is taking any medicines it can also mean that he has an impaired ability to absorb those medicines.
The condition can result in death because you need a fully functioning liver in order to survive.
There are around 27,000 cirrhosis deaths a year in the United States and of these, around 44 percent are caused by alcohol induced hepatitis.
You don’t have to be alcoholic to get it. If you have drunk a heavy or moderate amount of alcohol regularly over a number of years, this may be enough to cause damage to your liver.
For women, the amount of alcohol needed to damage the liver could be as little as two glasses of wine or beer a night over a prolonged period of time.
This is because women have smaller organs and so the amount of alcohol they can safely consume is less, compared with men.
Men can damage their liver if they drink three or four alcoholic drinks a day.
Is there a Safe Level of Alcohol?
Medical professionals aren’t sure if there is a safe level of alcohol, but they suggest that men should drink no more than 21 units per week and women should drink no more than 14 units per week.
You should also try to stick to drinks that have a lower alcohol content such as beer or wine, instead of spirits and you should never drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
Aside from increasing your chances of getting drunk and having a hangover, it also increases your chances of getting liver cirrhosis.
Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis
• Weight loss
• Enlarged parotid glands
In severe cases, the prognosis is bad and nearly 50 percent of patients will die within four weeks of diagnosis. In moderate or mild cases, there are treatments that may prolong life.
These have been shown to lengthen life in the short term but not the long term. A recent study has shown enteral nutrition to have a better long term outcome than steroids.
Total enteral nutrition
This form of nutrition provides feeding though a tube directly to the GI tract. This treatment has been shown to lengthen life span long term and reduce the risk of infections.
In those with moderate to severe disease, liver transplantation may be an option, but the person must have given up alcohol for three to six months prior to the surgery. Doctors prefer not to give donor organs to people who are likely to take up alcohol again and damage their new liver.
Having a transplant also requires the patient to take many tablets to avoid rejection and change aspects of their lifestyle, so having a transplant takes ongoing commitment and dedication on the part of the patient.
Cirrhosis, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House. Web. 18 June 2012.
Acute Alcoholic Hepatitis, Hepatitis.org. Web. 18 June 2012.
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/ She is the mother of five children and practices natural childbirth, delayed cord clamping, full term breastfeeding and organic food diet.
Reviewed June 18, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith