What is Alcoholic Hepatitis?
Alcoholic hepatitis is a condition caused by drinking alcohol that results in inflammation of the liver. While most people acquire this disease due to heavy consumption of alcohol over an extended period of time, it may also occur in those who binge drink.
The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis may vary depending on the level of liver damage. Those with mild alcoholic hepatitis may not experience any symptoms. However, common signs may include:
- Tenderness in the abdomen or over the liver
- Yellow coloring in the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Vomiting what looks like coffee grounds
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
While the most prominent risk factor for this disease is the amount of alcohol an individual drinks, those with other risk factors may also be diagnosed. Women tend to have a higher risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis, as well as those who are obese, have a family history of alcohol-induced liver disease or are of African American or Hispanic descent.
How is Alcoholic Hepatitis Diagnosed?
The first step toward treatment of alcoholic hepatitis is a diagnosis. Your provider will speak with you regarding your medical history, your drinking history, and your symptoms. A physical exam will also be performed to see if your liver or spleen is enlarged. Testing may include liver function tests, blood clotting tests, ultrasound of the liver, abdominal CT scan and more. In some cases, a liver biopsy may be needed as well.
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Alcoholic Hepatitis Treatment Options
In the early stages of this disease, some patients may be able to reduce their liver damage by avoiding alcohol. However, if more serious liver damage has already occurred, it is permanent. There are some treatment options to help reduce your symptoms, including:
Stop Drinking Alcohol
It is critical that individuals with alcoholic hepatitis stop consuming alcohol. Those who are having difficulty with this can speak to their doctor regarding treatment programs for alcohol addiction.
Your provider may prescribe medications that reduce inflammation to improve your liver function.
Nutritional and Diet Changes
Alcohol abuse may lead to malnutrition, so consulting with a nutritionist may be beneficial. Vitamin and nutrient supplements may also be helpful if you are malnourished.
For those with severe alcoholic hepatitis, a liver transplant may be necessary. However, in order to qualify for a transplant, you must demonstrate that you will not return to drinking if you do receive a new liver. In order to be considered a candidate, an individual must be sober for at least six months.
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At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Alcoholic Hepatitis or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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