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Liver Enzymes and Other Hepatology News

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Alcohol consumption is well known as a factor in many liver disorders, including alcoholic hepatomegaly, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, fatty liver disease, and progressive liver disease of various kinds. Although liver disease can occur from other causes including viral infections, hereditary factors, obesity, diabetes, poor diet, cancer, the effects of non-medicinal drugs, and side-effects of medications, alcohol abuse is probably the most common cause of most damage to the liver.


The liver is a vital organ with no redundancy, whose functions are absolutely irreplaceable in terms of health and even survival. Thus, damage to the liver is always a matter of great concern. Fortunately, damage to the liver caused by alcohol abuse is easily arrested by cessation of drinking, and in many cases the body can repair the damage if it has not progressed too far.


Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease


Alcohol is sometimes the culprit in fatty liver disease, an early-stage condition in which the liver develops fatty deposits. Usually, fatty liver disease is asymptomatic and detected only by blood tests for liver enzyme concentrations and confirmed by medical imaging technology such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Upon diagnosing fatty liver disease, doctors will then examine the patient's lifestyle to determine if excessive alcohol consumption is taking place, as well as to identify other possible causes such as obesity or diabetes.


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If a positive diagnosis of alcoholic fatty liver disease is made, the treatment is to cease drinking alcoholic beverages (as it is in any alcohol-related liver disease). Since fatty liver disease in itself is not usually a serious threat to health, cessation of drinking is normally the only treatment necessary for alcoholic fatty liver disease. Unless another cause for the condition is present as well, elimination of alcohol should suffice to arrest the progress of the disease and in many cases send it into remission.


Alcoholic Hepatitis


Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It is most frequently caused by a viral infection from one of 15 known viral families. However, hepatitis can also result from alcohol abuse. Unlike fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis often (although not always) is accompanied by symptoms, including jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes), abdominal swelling, pain, loss of appetite, and nausea. As with other alcohol-related liver diseases, the first prescription for treatment of alcoholic hepatitis is to stop drinking. Other treatments may be called for to help restore liver functioning.


Alcohol And Cirrhosis Of The Liver


The most serious and potentially life-threatening of alcohol-related liver diseases is probably cirrhosis of the liver. As with other liver diseases, cirrhosis may result from other causes besides alcohol abuse. However, alcohol abuse is a very common cause of cirrhosis.


Cirrhosis proceeds in stages. It begins with the inflammation of tissues within the liver, proceeds to the hardening of the swollen liver tissue into fibrous masses (a condition known as fibrosis), continues as the fibrotic masses merge together into larger clumps and liver functioning is severely impaired, and ends in a final liver cirrhosis stage (stage 4) in which liver functioning breaks down completely or near-completely, resulting finally in coma and death. Cirrhosis of the liver should always be taken very seriously.


Again, the first treatment for alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver is to stop drinking. If the disease is detected in its early stages, this will be enough to retain liver function sufficient for a normal life. Damage from cirrhosis of the liver is not easy (or often possible) for the body to repair. If cirrhosis proceeds to its later stages, while cessation of drinking is still mandatory, other treatments up to and including a liver transplant may become necessary for the patient to survive.

Liver Damage From Alcohol