The main concern for alcoholics in terms of health is their liver. The liver can be severely damaged by alcohol abuse. There are several different types of liver disease that can occur. These diseases occur in stages as the person continues to abuse alcohol without seeking proper treatment for their condition.
Alcohol and the Liver
When a person drinks alcohol, the liver reacts to it as if it is poison. The liver is only able to process so much--after too much alcohol is consumed it gets overworked. If a person only drinks alcohol on occasion, this doesn’t cause any permanent damage. However, someone who is an alcoholic and drinks regularly puts too much strain on their liver. Eventually the liver begins to shut down.
Damage to the liver first manifests as alcoholic hepatitis. This is described as an inflammation on the liver where cell death occurs. Symptoms include fever, enlarged liver, jaundice and high white cell count. At this point there is no permanent damage. If the person chooses to stop drinking their liver can still regenerate itself with the help of treatment from doctors and proper nutrition. If the alcoholic does not stop drinking at this point, more damage will occur and the problem will only get worse.
Fatty liver is the next step in liver disease. An excessive amount of fat in the bloodstream due to drinking causes fat cells to be deposited in the liver. These fat cells become collected on the liver and lead to the condition known as fatty liver. The liver becomes even more enlarged and in addition to the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis, the person will also begin to have upper abdominal pain. Again, if drinking discontinues the damage at this point is still reversible.
Cirrhosis of the Liver
Cirrhosis is the final stage of liver disease and the most serious. The healthy tissue of the liver has been damaged to the point where scar tissue has formed. The scar tissue is not functional and cannot regenerate. Symptoms include nausea, weakness, swelling, weight loss and loss of appetite. At this point the person may need a liver transplant depending on the severity of the damage. If a transplant is not needed, the person will still have serious health complications.
If you suspect that someone you know is an alcoholic, it’s important to talk to them now before the damage is too serious. The longer a person is an alcoholic the greater they are at risk of developing serious health complications. Almost every part of the body is damaged by alcohol abuse. There are many programs that can help a person stop drinking so they don’t cause permanent damage to their liver, brain or heart.