Chronic Liver Disease
Chronic liver disease occurs through various health conditions. The most common conditions often stem from alcohol abuse.
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What Is Chronic Liver Disease?
Chronic liver disease occurs when the scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the body’s liver. Chronic liver disease is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. There was a 65% liver disease increase in deaths due to chronic liver disease between 1999 and 2016. The reason is mainly due to alcohol consumption, and currently 40% of Americans over drink.The liver is one of the body’s main filtering systems.
Noteworthy functions of the liver are removing waste from the body, producing amino acids, producing blood clots, making new proteins, and producing bile for digestion. Additionally, it metabolizes medications into the ingredient needed for wellness in the body. People experience muscle loss, itching, weight loss and kidney failure with the progression of liver disease.
If the liver doesn’t work as it should due to chronic liver disease, it causes ill effects throughout the body. Effects can range from jaundice, high blood pressure, and a swollen abdomen, among others. Even more severe symptoms can develop if the liver disease is extreme; the liver can be severely damaged and stop working, resulting in a number of toxins in the blood. Sufferers can even die from complications from chronic liver disease such as liver cancer.
What Causes Chronic Liver Disease?
Common causes of chronic liver disease are:
- Alcohol abuse
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Blocked or damaged tubes
- Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E
- Episodes of heart failure
- High cholesterol
- Autoimmune disorders
- Parasitic infection
- Certain medications
Heavy Alcohol Use and the Stages of Chronic Liver Disease
Although people can get liver disease from many of the listed reasons, most of the time, chronic liver disease stems from alcoholism. It usually takes at least 8 years of heavy drinking for someone to develop chronic liver disease, although the exact timeline can be more or less. The doctor must diagnose the patient’s liver disease with a blood test or a liver biopsy, as liver disease has few symptoms initially.
In diagnosing the patient, the doctor can determine the severity of the liver disease. There are 4 different stages of alcohol-related liver disease, producing different results:
- Initial stages/ mild fibrosis
- Alcoholic hepatitis/moderate inflammation
- End stage liver disease
Initial Stages/Mild Fibrosis
The initial stages of liver disease include mild fibrosis of the liver disease through scarring of the liver. This is often caused by alcohol, although other health conditions can produce liver disease. As a result, the liver malfunctions, and the person experiences discomfort.
In the second stage, called “the alcoholic hepatitis” phase, the person suffers inflammation of the liver. The cells of the liver are destroyed by the heavy amounts of alcohol the person has consumed over time. Roughly 35% of heavy drinkers go through this phase of liver disease, and also develop:
- Abdominal pain
- Liver scarring/fibrosis
Cirrhosis is a condition of scarring on the liver, which can worsen over time. This condition can occur from type 2 diabetes, in men, people older than 50, and alcohol abusers. There are 200,000 annual cases of cirrhosis in the U.S. Percentage-wise, 10% to 20% of heavy drinkers eventually get cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is characterized by scarring of the liver. Consequently, the liver fails to work properly. Fibrosis begins to form in the liver. Portal hypertension, another complication from cirrhosis, is scar tissue blocking the flow of blood in the liver; hence the onset of high blood pressure in the portal vein.
End Stage Liver Disease
Cirrhosis can be life threatening if not treated, and can increase the risk of infection from other potentially fatal conditions. Most prominently, cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. Liver cancer results from “the spreading of unhealthy cells in the liver.” Liver failure denotes lack of liver functions. The individuals suffering this may experience fatigue, diarrhea, confusion, excess bleeding, and death. If someone is enduring the pain of liver failure, don’t hesitate to get medical care.
Get Help Now
Alcoholism can create many destructive health effects, damaging the liver and other parts of the body. If you or someone you love is experiencing chronic liver disease, it is of the utmost importance that treatment is sought immediately. Ending the cycle of alcoholism begins with reaching out for help. Contact a treatment expert to find the path to healing your alcohol abuse disorder today.
- Author — Last Edited: July 2, 2019
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AmericanLiverFoundation.org. (2017). The Progression of Liver Disease. Retrieved on October 30, 2018 at https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/the-progression-of-liver-disease/#1503432164252-f19f7e9c-0374
Medicine.Net. (2017). Cirrhosis (Liver). Retrieved on October 30, 2018 at https://www.medicinenet.com/cirrhosis/article.htm
Newsweek.com. (2018). More Americans Are Dying From A Liver Disease Caused By Rise In Excessive Drinking, Study Says. Retrieved on October 30, 2018 at https://www.newsweek.com/more-adults-die-liver-disease-alcohol-use-rises-1035039
MayoClinic.com. (2017). Cirrhosis. Retrieved on October 30, 2018 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cirrhosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351492
AmericanLiverFoundation.com. (2017). Alcohol-Related Liver Disease. Retrieved on October 30, 2018 at https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/alcohol-related-liver-disease/