Alcoholic Cirrhosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : November 06, 
2020 
| 5 Sources



align="center">Alcoholic liver cirrhosis is a consequence of chronic alcohol abuse, but can arise in moderate drinkers also




Generally, alcoholic cirrhosis occurs after years of excessive drinking. An uncontrolled rate of alcohol consumption greatly increases the chance of developing a cirrhotic liver.

Contrary to popular belief, however, alcoholic liver disease does not necessarily affect only alcoholics and heavy drinkers. Women may be more susceptible than men, because they have lesser alcohol dehydrogenase in the gastric mucosa; so, more alcohol reaches the liver.


Alcohol-Induced Cirrhosis
The Final Stage of Liver Disease

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the final stage of liver disease due to alcohol abuse.

It is irreversible.

The liver endures the worst degree of tissue injury by excessive drinking because it’s the organ responsible for ethanol metabolism. Cirrhosis is the result of damage to the liver cells from toxins, metabolic problems or other causes. Hypertension develops with alcoholic cirrhosis.

As the liver deteriorates, it gradually loses its ability to remove waste products from the bloodstream and the effects of portal hypertension will appear.

Alcoholic cirrhosis may or may not occur with alcoholic hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis is a severe kind of alcohol-induced liver damage that occurs with the excessive alcohol consumption over a prolonged period of time.


Alcoholic cirrhosis is unpredictable in so far as it can occur in an individual who has been drinking heavily for 10 years and not in one who has been drinking heavily for 20 years. Some are more susceptible to the condition than others.


Alcohol Cirrhosis
Symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis

Symptoms of the disease may include:

  • Dry mouth and excessive thirst
  • Fatigue, slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
  • Fever, nausea, agitation, loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Fluid collection in the abdomen
  • Unintentional weight gain (due to water retention)
  • Mental confusion, mood swing, hallucinations
  • Jaundice, abnormally dark or light skin
  • Presence of blood in feces, tarry bowel movements
  • Rapid heart rates, redness on feet and hands
  • Attention deficit, impaired ability to concentrate
  • Memory lapse, impaired memory
  • Easy bruising due to the decreased production of blood clotting components by the diseased liver.



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Alcoholic Cirrhosis
Treatment for Alcohol-Induced Cirrhosis

The most important part of treatment, if cirrhosis is suspected, is to stop drinking alcohol immediately.

If cirrhosis has not yet occurred, the liver may have a chance to heal.

Prognosis is determined by the degree of inflammation of the liver.

A simple liver biopsy can confirm whether alcoholic liver disease has occurred. Using ultrasound radiography to measure liver stiffness is another way to do it.

However if cirrhosis is detected, then it may be difficult to treat.


Treatment of alcohol cirrhosis includes:

  • ABSTINENCE
  • It is the only way. Abstain from alcohol. Compliance can be difficult; a compassionate approach is the key. Patients need motivation, behavioral and psychosocial interventions can help. These include rehabilitation programs and support groups. Alcoholism medication, if used, should only supplement other interventions.

  • SUPPORTIVE CARE
  • To support abstinence from alcohol, it is paramount patients are given a nutritious diet with vitamin supplements. This is especially so during the first few days of abstinence. Alcohol withdrawal may require the use of benzodiazepines, or simply – Diazepam.

  • SPECIFIC TREATMENT
  • Patients who have severe cirrhosis may be given corticosteroids (a type of drug) to improve their condition. Other than corticosteroids, antioxidants like metadoxine was found to be effective in ameliorating liver injury during early cirrhosis.

  • LIVER TRANSPLANT
  • Many patients’ liver function worsens despite intensive treatment. As mentioned above, cirrhosis is irreversible. When all else fails, and the disease is at its critical stage, a liver transplantation may be considered. Advances in surgical procedures and medications to prevent infection and rejection of the transplanted liver have greatly improved survival after transplantation. 80% of patients who receive transplants are alive after five years.

Prognosis for Liver Cirrhosis

Treatment results in improvement in a lot of cases where the disease is discovered during its earlier stages. Many patients can still live a normal life for many years. The outlook is less promising if the liver damage is extensive or if the patient with cirrhosis doesn’t stop drinking. Patients with liver cirrhosis oftentimes die of bleeding that could not be stopped, severe infections or even kidney failure. They usually enter irreversible coma during their last days.

If you suspect you may be suffering from alcoholic liver disease, then it is essential you contact a medical professional as soon as possible.



If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:


Return from Alcoholic Cirrhosis to Alcohol Abuse Effects 

Return from Alcoholic Cirrhosis to Alcoholism Help Homepage



Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


Hello!

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More



Sources:  

NCBI. Alcoholic Liver Disease: Pathogenesis and Current Management. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513682/

Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education. Alcoholic Liver Disease. June 2018. https://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement

Merck Manual. Alcoholic Liver Disease. July 2019. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/alcoholic-liver-disease/alcoholic-liver-disease

MedicineNet. Cirrhosis (Liver). https://www.medicinenet.com/cirrhosis/article.htm

Harvard Health Publishing. Cirrhosis. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/cirrhosis-a-to-z


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