Chronic, heavy alcohol use is harmful and exhausting to the body and brain. One of the serious health risks of alcohol abuse is contracting alcoholic hepatitis. Although it can take years for alcoholic hepatitis to manifest, when it does it can be deadly.
Chronic alcohol abuse damages and inflames the liver, and liver inflammation is a classic case of alcoholic hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis usually lasts 10 to 20 years and often ends in death, and so is considered a chronic and even deadly condition.
Because it takes many years for alcoholic hepatitis to develop, the majority of people with alcoholic hepatitis are between ages 40 and 60 years old. Once a person has hepatitis, it is nearly impossible to reverse the damage caused by the disease, but abstaining from alcohol can help manage symptoms.
Nearly 50% of people diagnosed with the disease die within months of diagnosis. Other than a liver transplant, which is expensive, risky, and not always an available option for many reasons, there is no cure for alcoholic hepatitis. Since it cannot be cured, prevention is the best way to avoid alcoholic hepatitis. Spreading awareness of the existence, risks, and causes is the best way to help prevent alcoholic hepatitis.
How does a person contract alcoholic hepatitis?
Whenever the liver has to process alcohol, fat builds up in the cells of the liver. The liver is only able to digest about one drink (one shot, one beer, one mixed drink) per hour. If too much fat collects in the liver from alcohol abuse, the liver stops being able to do its job filtering out toxins, and the toxins can harden and scar the liver. The unfiltered toxins flow into the bloodstream and can then access other organs.
Alcoholic hepatitis symptoms
Unlike other forms of hepatitis, there is no blood test available to diagnose alcoholic hepatitis. Diagnosis is made based on observable symptoms.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis:
- Swollen or sensitive abdomen: If you have pain in your abdomen, then you could have a swollen liver. Another sign of this is an enlarged abdomen area from the liver swelling. What is popularly known as a “beer belly” or a “spare tire” could actually a symptom of alcoholic hepatitis.
- Poor or decreased appetite: Alcoholics are often more concerned with getting their next drink than eating healthy, nutritious food on a regular basis. Poor diet and malnourishment leave the body open to a higher risk of any infection
- Fever: A fever, even a low-grade fever, is a sign of a disease of some sort. Even if you think the infection is something else, you should get a blood test to find out the true cause and rule out hepatitis.
- Yellow skin: Any liver damage, whether from alcohol abuse or not, can cause a noticeable yellowing of the skin. This yellowing is known as jaundice and is perhaps the most common symptom of alcoholic hepatitis.