Alcoholic hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by drinking excessive alcohol. It is usually related to fatty liver and may lead to cirrhosis. In some severe cases, patients with alcoholic hepatitis have a high risk of death. Alcoholic hepatitis is more common in people who drink heavily over many years, but not all heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis. Sometimes it can appear in people who just drink moderately.
People diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis should stop drinking alcohol, or they are at a high risk of liver failure, even death.
In America, according to statistics, alcoholic hepatitis affects about 2 million people. Women are more likely to be affected than men due to the difference in the way body breaks down alcohol in both sexes.
About 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, which makes alcohol become the fourth leading preventable cause of death in America. About 10%-15% of patients with alcoholic hepatitis have a fulminant disease, which has a high mortality rate.
The alcohol gets processed in the liver can produce highly toxic chemicals, which will damage the cells of the liver and lead to alcoholic hepatitis. However, it is unknown how alcohol damages the liver currently.
The body’s process for breaking down alcohol can produce highly toxic chemicals, which can cause inflammation and damage liver cells. Gradually, scars replace healthy liver tissue and form cirrhosis. People with other types of hepatitis are more likely to develope the condition.
Some factors may increase the risk of
getting alcoholic hepatitis, including:
- Female gender
- Genetic factors
- Race and ethnicity (Blacks and Hispanics have a higher risk)
- Drink too much in a short time
Depending on the severity of the damage of
the liver, symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis are various:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness
- Abdominal tenderness
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Kidney and liver failure
- Changes in the mental state, including confusion
Your doctors will ask your medical history,
habits of drinking and your symptoms, then you may need some tests such as:
- Blood test: complete blood count (CBC), blood clotting tests
- Liver function test
- CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI
- A liver biopsy (if needed)
Treatment for alcoholic hepatitis mainly to relieve the symptoms of liver damage. Generally, treatment options are involved:
- Stop drinking and quit smoking
- Taking nutritional supplements
- Using corticosteroid medications to ease inflammation
- Use pentoxifylline to improve kidney function
- Reducing salt consumption in the diet and taking diuretic medications for ascites
- Using medications called lactulose and antibiotics for hepatic encephalopathy
- Using albumin and constrict blood vessels drugs such as terlipressin, midodrine and octreotide, or norepinephrine for kidney failure caused by hepatorenal syndrome
In some cases, alcoholic hepatitis can lead to other health problems, including:
Some options can reduce the risk of alcoholic hepatitis, including:
- Drink alcohol moderately or avoid drinking alcohol
- Eat a healthy diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Protect yourself from getting hepatitis B and hepatitis C
Please consult your doctors for your treatment.
Keywords: alcoholic hepatitis; hepatitis; liver disease.