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World Hepatitis Day 2019: Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Hepatitis?

Alcoholic hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, caused by excessive consumption of alcohol over a longer period. Today, on World Hepatitis Day 2019, read on to know the type of hepatitis you can develop from alcohol abuse. The inflammatory condition of the liver is worsened by binge drinking. It is mostly reported in individuals who drink heavily for years.

However, it is to be noted that not all heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis and sometimes, it can develop in moderate drinkers too. An individual diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis must stop alcohol consumption immediately, and if continued, can raise the risk of liver damage, cirrhosis, excessive bleeding and death[1] .

The condition causes the build-up of fat and can scar your liver, along with the inflammation.

Causes Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

The condition arises when alcohol consumption begins to damage your liver. Once the alcohol in your system gets processed, toxic chemicals are produced which can cause severe damages to your liver cells [2] .

Although it is understood that heavy alcohol consumption is the cause of the condition, there is a lack of evidence on why exactly the condition develops.

Symptoms Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

The signs about the condition vary according to the damage inflicted on the liver. If the condition is minor, the symptoms will be difficult to understand and you may not even experience them [3] .

Some of the common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis are as follows [4] :

  • Diarrhoea
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite shift
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen
  • Changes in your mental state
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Easy bleeding or bruising

Risk Factors Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

Of course, the prime risk factor of alcoholic hepatitis is the consumption of alcohol. The other risk factors of the condition are as follows [5] :

  • Gender, women tend to have a higher risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis.
  • Obesity
  • Race and ethnicity, Blacks and Hispanics might be at higher risk.
  • Genetic factors
  • Binge drinking

Diagnosis Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

The doctor will begin by examining your health history and alcohol consumption levels. A physical examination will also be carried out to check for an enlarged spleen or liver.

After that, various tests will be carried out to confirm whether you have alcoholic hepatitis[6] . The tests include

  • ultrasound of the liver,
  • complete blood count (CBC),
  • liver function test,
  • abdominal CT scan and
  • blood clotting tests.

A liver biopsy may also be ordered in some cases.

Complications Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

The severe liver damage caused by the condition can cause various complications and they are as follows [7] :

  • Enlarged veins
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Ascites
  • Kidney failure
  • Cirrhosis

Treatment For Alcoholic Hepatitis

Caused by the over-consumption of alcohol, the first step is to give up drinking. Apart from that, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medications are prescribed for quitting the habit of alcohol consumption.

Treatment measures include medications, counselling, support groups and outpatient or residential treatment programs[8] .

Medications to reduce liver inflammation such as corticosteroids and pentoxifylline are also prescribed.

One of the other treatment methods includes liver transplant [9] .

Prevention Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

  • Drink alcohol in moderation or avoid it, if you can.
  • Do not mix medications with alcohol [10] .
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Protect yourself from hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
View Article References
  1. [1] Thursz, M. R., Richardson, P., Allison, M., Austin, A., Bowers, M., Day, C. P., ... & Hood, S. (2015). Prednisolone or pentoxifylline for alcoholic hepatitis.New England Journal of Medicine,372(17), 1619-1628.
  2. [2] Tilg, H., Moschen, A. R., & Szabo, G. (2016). Interleukin‐1 and inflammasomes in alcoholic liver disease/acute alcoholic hepatitis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease/nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.Hepatology,64(3), 955-965.
  3. [3] Im, G. Y., Kim‐Schluger, L., Shenoy, A., Schubert, E., Goel, A., Friedman, S. L., ... & Schiano, T. D. (2016). Early liver transplantation for severe alcoholic hepatitis in the United States—a single‐center experience.American Journal of Transplantation,16(3), 841-849.
  4. [4] Momen-Heravi, F., Saha, B., Kodys, K., Catalano, D., Satishchandran, A., & Szabo, G. (2015). Increased number of circulating exosomes and their microRNA cargos are potential novel biomarkers in alcoholic hepatitis.Journal of translational medicine,13(1), 261.
  5. [5] Michelena, J., Altamirano, J., Abraldes, J. G., Affò, S., Morales‐Ibanez, O., Sancho‐Bru, P., ... & Ginès, P. (2015). Systemic inflammatory response and serum lipopolysaccharide levels predict multiple organ failure and death in alcoholic hepatitis.Hepatology,62(3), 762-772.
  6. [6] Mufti, A. (2017). Alcoholic hepatitis: to transplant or not to transplant, that is the question.
  7. [7] Lee, B. P., Chen, P. H., Haugen, C., Hernaez, R., Gurakar, A., Philosophe, B., ... & Cameron, A. M. (2017). Three-year results of a pilot program in early liver transplantation for severe alcoholic hepatitis.Annals of surgery,265(1), 20-29.
  8. [8] Woolbright, B. L., Bridges, B. W., Dunn, W., Olson, J. C., Weinman, S. A., & Jaeschke, H. (2017). Cell death and prognosis of mortality in alcoholic hepatitis patients using plasma keratin-18.Gene Expression, The Journal of Liver Research,17(4), 301-312.
  9. [9] Mandrekar, P., Bataller, R., Tsukamoto, H., & Gao, B. (2016). Alcoholic hepatitis: translational approaches to develop targeted therapies.Hepatology,64(4), 1343-1355.
  10. [10] Thursz, M., & Morgan, T. R. (2016). Treatment of severe alcoholic hepatitis.Gastroenterology,150(8), 1823-1834.

    Story first published: Sunday, July 28, 2019, 9:00 [IST]
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