The Danger of Alcoholic Hepatitis
Though individuals may feel the immediate effects of alcohol most strongly, the harshest consequences can take place in the liver. One of the most fatal, yet slow-progressing, diseases is alcoholic hepatitis.
Who Is at Risk of Alcoholic Hepatitis?
Alcoholic hepatitis (AH) is inflammation of the liver caused by the repeated abuse of alcohol. After 10 to 20 years of moderate to severe drinking, individuals may develop AH, in addition to other alcohol-related medical conditions. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60, after having done irreversible damage to the liver. Unfortunately, nearly half of all people diagnosed with severe AH will die within a month of receiving their diagnosis. This makes prevention an incredibly important aspect of AH education.
How Alcoholic Hepatitis Develops
The liver, while capable of processing about one drink per hour, starts to build up an excess of fat in its cells when flooded with too much alcohol. This impairs its ability to filter toxins, and eventually their residue hardens the livers tissues and scars it.
The progression of these symptoms can cause a cascading range of other effects around the body. There are no specific tests or scans for AH; it must be observed in the patient. So, being on the lookout for possible symptoms can help individuals seek proper medical attention.
Here are 5 of symptoms to look out for:
1. Yellowing of the Skin or Whites of the Eyes
Known as jaundice, yellow tones are caused by the waste material, bilirubin. Bilirubin is found in the blood, which is why areas with high blood interaction (i.e. the skin and eyes) yellow before other parts of the body. Sometimes, hepatitis-induced jaundice is treated with steroids.
2. Abdominal Swelling or Tenderness
A sore abdomen is a result of a swollen liver, also known as hepatomegaly. Some cases of hepatomegaly, due to alcoholic hepatitis, have been so pronounced, as to appear like a “spare tire” around the midsection. Treatment will focus on the underlying cause.
3. Loss of Appetite
The loss of appetite may not seem like a concern compared with other symptoms but can point to more serious underlying issues. Oftentimes, patients with alcoholic hepatitis lose their appetite by maintaining a poor diet and, coupled with the overconsumption of alcohol, this can lead to malnourishment. A malnourished individual lacks the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and fibers to function normally. They may feel faint or “foggy.”
4. Nausea or Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are symptoms commonly mistaken for the usual side effects of being drunk. However, when alcoholic hepatitis progresses to the point of chronic (long-term) nausea or a persistent feeling of being unwell, it is time to speak with a medical professional. Anti-nausea medications can treat the symptoms, but full recovery requires the treatment of the underlying disease.
5. Low-Grade Fever
Alcoholic hepatis may cause a slight fever, but an increased temperature should also prompt tests for infection. When the liver isn’t working correctly, the body is more susceptible to infection. The symptoms of a fever can be treated, but treatment generally targets the infection or cause of the fever.
Mayo Clinic. (2018). Alcoholic Hepatitis. Retrieved on July 5, 2018 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcoholic-hepatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351388
May Clinic. (2018). Enlarged Liver. Retrieved on July 12, 2018 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/enlarged-liver/symptoms-causes/syc-20372167
Medical News Today. (2016). What’s to know about alcoholic hepatitis? Retrieved on July 5, 2018 at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313928.php
Medical News Today. (2017). Everything you need to know about jaundice. Retrieved on July 12, 2018 at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/165749.php
WebMD. (2017). Alcoholic Hepatitis. Retrieved on July 5, 2018 at https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/what-is-alcoholic-hepatitis#1
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