Early Alcoholic Liver Damage

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Early alcoholic liver damage usually manifests in the diagnosis of a fatty liver. All individuals who consume excessive amounts of alcohol are subject to the onset of a fatty liver. In most cases, the effects are reversible; however, the continuous, excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to more consequential liver conditions.

Identification

  • Early alcoholic liver damage usually manifests in a diagnosis of fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease occurs in most who consume large quantities of alcohol. Unlike with other irreparable diagnoses such as alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis, the liver is able to repair the damage caused by a fatty liver. Together, the three conditions often run in succession, beginning with a fatty liver.

Significance

  • Because the liver is a resilient organ, and because a fatty liver manifests no symptoms, early liver damage is often detected only once it has reached the irreversible stages of cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis. The common resolution to both alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis is liver transplantation. Once scarring has developed on the liver in either of these two conditions, the liver is no longer able to repair itself. Therefore, the expectation that heavy alcohol consumption can continue until a fatty liver is diagnosed is impractical.

Function

  • Alcohol consumption occurs primarily in the liver. The consumption of large quantities of alcohol elicits the production of free radicals. Normally, free radicals are able to be intercepted by antioxidants in the liver, however, the heavy consumption of alcohol on a consistent basis produces more free radicals than the limited numbers of anti-oxidants are able to consume. Un-intercepted free radicals lead to the destruction of healthy liver cells.

Effects

  • Fatty liver, as its name would suggest, consists of fat deposits in liver cells. It can occur during a single heavy-drinking session and is therefore able to be contracted by alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike. Fatty liver can lead to an inflammation of the liver called steatohepatitis. Commonly, steatohepatitis in alcoholics who continue to heavily abuse alcohol can bring about the permanent scarring of cirrhosis. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is one of the top three leading causes of cirrhosis, according to the American Liver Foundation.

Prevention/Solution

  • Those most at risk for the onset of a fatty liver are heavy drinkers who are overweight or obese, those having elevated triglyceride levels and people with diabetes. Once diagnosed with a fatty liver, you should abstain from alcohol, lose weight in a healthy manner (diet and exercise,) control your diabetes and get a regular checkup from a liver specialist.

References

  • Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons
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