Alcohol use disorder is a tragic disease.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over fourteen million American adults suffer from it. In the United States, approximately 95,000 people died of alcohol-related cases annually.
Long term, regular alcohol consumption has a very negative effect on the body and overall health. It can cause heart damage, pancreatitis, stomach distress, sexual dysfunction, diabetes complications, and osteoporosis.
However, perhaps the most common and well-known effects of long term alcohol abuse are liver damage. When the liver is damaged, it can no longer effectively perform its job. A damaged liver will struggle to remove harmful substances from the body, and this issue will only worsen as an individual continues to drink.
If you or a loved one has a drinking problem, it’s crucial to know the signs of liver damage from alcohol. However, it’s essential to understand that some people don’t experience any symptoms until the damage is quite advanced.
With that said, though, there are some early signs to be aware of; should they arise, it’s time to get some help to break free from this addiction – before it’s too late.
Why Alcohol Affects Your Liver
The liver is an organ that has numerous functions. Its main job is to filter blood from the digestive tract before that blood moves to the rest of the body. In doing so, it filters things out of that blood our bodies don’t need and allows the rest to pass through.
But the liver does much more than just that. It also breaks down fats, converts excess carbohydrates and protein, and stores them later. It recycles our blood and breaks down damaged blood cells. It stores sugars as glycogen and transforms glycogen into glucose as needed for energy. The liver also stores iron and nutrients and releases plasma proteins that make blood clotting possible. It keeps the amount of sugar in the bloodstream at the proper levels at all times.
The liver also works to detoxify the body by removing chemicals and the metabolization of drugs. As these substances are broken down, they are secreted into the intestines as bile.
Your liver works hard to do all of the above jobs. Nearly every substance that enters your body passes through your liver and has some effect on all of them. When your liver is damaged, the efficiency of these functions will suffer.
The more you drink alcohol, the harder your liver must process and eliminate toxins. As time goes in, the constant addition of alcohol to your system makes it more and more difficult for your liver to do the many jobs it has to do.
Long Term Effects of Alcohol on the Liver
One of the leading causes of liver damage is alcohol consumption. When a person’s liver is damaged due to drinking alcohol, their liver condition is called alcohol-related liver disease.
If alcohol-related liver disease is caught early, it is reversible. However, a person who has been diagnosed with it must quit drinking altogether if he or she wishes to reverse the disease. If the individual continues drinking, this condition will advance to alcoholic hepatitis, and eventually, cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is not reversible, but people who quit drinking once diagnosed with cirrhosis can likely extend their lives while doing so. However, at this point, severe damage has been done, and it will probably not be able to repair itself.
Sadly, people who cannot stop drinking alcohol once diagnosed with cirrhosis have a less than fifty percent chance of living five more years. This is in part because of the damage to the liver specifically, but alcoholic cirrhosis can also cause brain damage, kidney failure, liver cancer, internal bleeding, and more.
Early Signs of Liver Damage From Alcohol
Unfortunately, many people suffer from alcohol-related liver disease and don’t even know it. In the early stages, they may have no symptoms at all. Some discover that they have this condition after it has already advanced to alcoholic hepatitis. Others don’t have any clue that their liver is damaged until their condition has progressed to cirrhosis.
A diagnosis of any of the above conditions can be devastating, but it’s even more terrifying when it has advanced to irreversible cirrhosis without any noticeable symptoms.
However, some indicators can suggest the slow development of alcohol-related liver disease early on. In some cases, people who experience this condition may begin to feel fatigued and may begin to notice unexplained weight-loss. They may feel that their appetite has decreased, and they may also find that they often feel nauseous for no apparent reason. Vomiting may accompany this nausea.
Further, early, mid, or late alcohol-related liver disease may cause swelling of the liver as it continues to work hard to rid the body of toxins. This can lead to abdominal discomfort that feels quite different than a normal stomach ache.
However, again, it’s important to remember that many people in all three stages of alcohol-related liver disease may experience no signs of liver damage from alcohol at all. This disease will continue to advance as long as the individual continues to drink alcohol. When he or she eventually finds out that this condition is present, it may already be too late to recover from it.
How to Avoid Liver Damage from Alcohol
The best way to avoid liver damage from alcohol is to stop drinking alcohol or to at least drink in moderation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a moderate amount of alcohol each day is fine for most people; men can have up to two alcoholic beverages each day while women can have one.
However, if you have been drinking more than that daily for a long or even short time, you may have already begun to develop alcohol-related liver disease. Remember, the signs of liver damage from alcohol may not be evident, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you find that you cannot stop drinking alcohol on your own, please contact us today. We can help you detox in a safe and medically supervised environment, and then we can help you learn how to live your life without alcohol moving forward. We can’t wait to hear from you and we can’t wait to help. You can live a life that is alcohol-free.