Drinking alcohol is a commonly accepted part of American culture. Many young adults grow up believing their first alcoholic beverage is a rite of passage and look forward to their 21st birthday so they can legally partake in beer, wine and liquor.
Some people have no problem drinking in moderation and may only have alcohol on special occasions. However, for others, alcohol use can cause a host of adverse effects, including various risky health conditions. Alcoholic hepatitis is one of these. Up to 35% of current or former heavy drinkers develop this illness. What does this condition entail, and how do you know if you might have it?
What Is Alcoholic Hepatitis?
When you drink alcohol, your liver is the organ that plays a primary role in processing the associated toxins out of your body. The liver has a remarkable ability to renew itself, but each time your liver filters alcohol, some of its cells die. Prolonged alcohol abuse can reduce this organ’s ability to regenerate, which can result in permanent damage such as alcoholic hepatitis – an inflammatory condition.
Complications of alcoholic hepatitis include the buildup of scar tissue that can impede blood circulation through your liver. When this happens, it increases pressure in a major blood vessel called your portal vein, which leads to the accumulation of toxins in your body. Eventually, this toxic backlog can cause brain and organ damage, including life-threatening stomach bleeding or a coma.
Symptoms and Treatment
Alcoholic hepatitis usually results in a constellation of symptoms that can manifest gradually. These include:
- Jaundice, or yellowing of your eyes and skin
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Belly tenderness and pain
- Nausea and vomiting blood or material that resembles coffee grounds
Some symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis can mimic warning signs of other illnesses, so it’s essential to see a doctor as soon as possible if you have been a long-term, heavy drinker and are concerned about the consequences. Your health provider can run several diagnostic tests to determine what is wrong.
The only surefire way to prevent alcoholic hepatitis is to abstain from alcohol. However, once you have received an official diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis, your doctor may recommend you change your diet by avoiding specific foods and taking diuretics or vitamin supplements. You may also need to take prescription antibiotics, since a weakened liver can leave you more susceptible to developing bacterial infections. Your health provider may recommend corticosteroids to reduce liver swelling. If none of those treatments work because your liver disease is too advanced, you may need a liver transplant.
Do You Need Help Quitting Alcohol?
People who continue to drink alcohol after receiving a diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis run the risk of severe liver damage and death. However, if you have been relying on alcohol for many years, you may have lost your ability to control how much you consume. A hallmark of alcohol use disorder is that it causes addicts to struggle to quit drinking on their own, even if they know their lives hang in the balance.
At Pillars Recovery, we offer qualified alcohol addiction treatment for men and women at our beautiful campuses in Southern California. We know firsthand how hard it can be to live with a substance use disorder because we’ve been there ourselves. To start your journey with us, please contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive programming options.