Alcoholic Hepatitis Treatment in Asheville, NC
Heavy drinkers and alcoholics may severely damage their liver. According to the Liver Foundation, up to 35% of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis. Common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include yellowing skin, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Quitting drinking is the best way of treating alcoholic hepatitis. Other treatments include medication and liver transplantation. To speak with an alcoholic hepatitis specialist today in Asheville, call (843) 492-4884 or contact Dr. Dalal Akoury online.
What are the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis?
There are two types of alcoholic hepatitis:
- mild or acute: a short-term condition that can usually be reversed by giving up alcohol
- severe or chronic: a recurring condition that can lead to serious or fatal medical complications like liver failure
You may not show any symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis until it becomes severe. If you do show symptoms, a common one is jaundice, which causes your skin and the white of your eyes to turn yellow. Alcoholic hepatitis symptoms also include:
- dry mouth
- changes in or loss of appetite
- weight loss
- nausea and vomiting
- abdominal pain
- dark urine
- easy bleeding or bruising
Continuing to drink can lead to severe alcoholic hepatitis, which can cause additional health problems like:
- liver failure
- kidney failure
- fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity (ascites)
- enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
- swollen blood vessels near the skin can cause red spots (spider angiomas)
- excessive bleeding
Hepatitis from drinking alcohol can cause toxins in your blood to enter the brain and cause brain damage and coma. This condition is called hepatic encephalopathy.
What causes alcoholic hepatitis?
The liver can break down alcohol, but only in small doses because doing so produces very toxic chemicals. When you drink excessively over a long-term period, these chemicals can injure the liver cells and cause inflammation.
You have a higher likelihood of developing alcoholic hepatitis if you:
- consume more than five alcoholic drinks in short periods (binge drink)
- have other liver infections or disorders like hepatitis C
- have certain genetics that affects how your body processes alcohol
- are obese
- are malnourished
- are female
- are of African-American or Hispanic descent
How is alcoholic hepatitis diagnosed?
If you are experiencing alcoholic hepatitis symptoms, your healthcare provider will ask you about your health history and alcohol consumption. You'll be tested for the condition with the following:
- a physical exam to check for an enlarged liver or spleen
- liver function test: accesses the number of proteins, liver enzymes, or bilirubin in your blood
- imaging tests like an ultrasound, CT, or MRI scan to create a detailed image of the liver
- complete blood count (CBC) to determine your blood cell levels
- prothrombin time test: measures rate of blood clotting, which requires vitamin K – slow blood clotting may indicate a liver condition
- liver biopsy to obtain a small tissue sample for further laboratory analysis
How is alcoholic hepatitis treated?
Quitting drinking is the first and most important step. If you stop drinking in the early stages of the disease, you may be able to reverse the damage to your liver. Even if the damage is too severe to reverse, you should still stop drinking to prevent further liver damage. If you need help to stop drinking, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous can offer support.
Other treatments for alcoholic hepatitis include:
- medications like corticosteroids and pentoxifylline that reduces liver inflammation
- vitamin and nutrient supplements to treat malnourishment
- a liver transplant if the organ is too severely damaged – requires cessation of drinking for at least 6 months before the transplant
- induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs): may be able to improve liver transplants—especially for patients with hepatitis C—in the future
As with any treatment, results will vary from patient to patient, depending on age, genetics, the severity of the condition, general health, and environmental factors. Ways to prevent alcohol-induced hepatitis include:
- avoiding alcohol
- drinking in moderation (less than two drinks per day for men and less than one drink per day for women)
- maintaining a healthy weight
- protecting yourself from hepatitis B and hepatitis C by practicing safe sex, not sharing needles, and getting the hepatitis B vaccine
In spite of advanced techniques and new treatments emerging, the outlook for patients with severe or advanced alcoholic hepatitis remains unfavorable.1Generally, patients' best hope is quitting drinking immediately and making marked lifestyle changes such as exercising, improving diet, and abstaining from alcohol permanently.
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Drinking too much alcohol is bad for your liver and can cause liver damage. Limiting your alcohol intake is the best way of avoiding liver conditions.
1. Kim, Won, and Dong Joon Kim. “Severe Alcoholic Hepatitis-Current Concepts, Diagnosis and Treatment Options.” World Journal of Hepatology, vol. 6, no. 10, 2014, p. 688., doi:10.4254/wjh.v6.i10.688.
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