The liver is the largest gland in the body and the second largest organ, and is essential for life. Alcohol abuse can severely harm the liver, causing irreversible damage. Most of the blood flow from the digestive tract funnels through the liver. When someone consumes alcohol, it is absorbed into the blood stream and then broken down in the liver. This can cause complications that can turn out to be life threatening.
The liver has the potential to regenerate, so people can live with only ten to twenty percent of their liver functioning. This is particularly dangerous because symptoms will not show up until the individual has progressed into their disease. There are three main types of liver disease that are related to alcohol abuse: Fatty Liver Disease (FLD), Alcoholic Hepatitis and Alcoholic Cirrhosis. They will usually occur in order as the disease progresses.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty Liver Disease in when fat deposits build up inside of the liver cells. This disease is most common in alcoholics and is usually a direct result of alcoholism. The disease causes the liver to enlarge but does not cause it to function any differently. This stage of liver damage is still dangerous because it means the liver is progressing into more serious diseases.
As alcohol liver damage progresses, Alcoholic Hepatitis occurs following Fatty Liver Disease. This disease causes widespread inflammation and destruction of the livers tissue. The damage to the livers tissue from this disease may also lead to fibrosis, when healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. The symptoms of Alcoholic Hepatitis are abdominal pain, jaundice, and fever. Alcoholic Hepatitis can lead to death but can be reversed over time if the individual is abstinent from alcohol. Alcoholic Hepatitis occurs in fifty percent of men and women who drink alcoholically.
The third type of alcoholic related liver disease is Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver has proven to be the most dangerous alcoholic related liver disease. The early symptoms of Cirrhosis of the liver are weight loss and weakness in the body. As this disease progresses it can cause loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal swelling, impaired liver functions, indigestion and extensive fibrosis.
Extensive fibrosis stiffens the blood vessels and damages the inner structure of the liver potentially leading to malfunctions of other organs such as the kidneys and brain. Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the liver is the most fatal liver disease and cannot be reversed. Once someone has Cirrhosis of the liver it usually ends in other complications such as kidney failure. If alcohol abuse is continued with Cirrhosis it will usually lead to death. While it cannot be reversed studies show that if abstinence from alcohol is maintained the condition can become stable.