Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Alcohol-induced Liver damage

Liver is the largest gland in the body.It performs more than 500 functions,a brief summary of which follows:
. Processing digested food from the intestine.
. Controlling levels of fats, amino acids,and glucose in the blood.
. Clearing the blood of particles and germs/microorganisms like bacteria.
. Neutralizing and destroying drugs and toxins.
. Manufacturing bile.
. Storing iron,vitamins,and other essential chemicals.
. Breaking down food and turning it into energy.
. Making enzymes and proteins which are responsible for most chemical reactions in the body,for example those involved in blood clotting and repair of damaged tissues.

Role of Liver in processing alcohol:

The liver processes most things a person consumes,including alcohol.In fact liver is the only organ involved in processing alcohol.However,only a certain quantity of alcohol can be detoxified over a period of time;meanwhile,excess alcohol affects the brain,heart,muscles and other parts of the body.

The types of alcohol-induced liver disease:

1)Fatty liver

It is marked by a buildup of fat cells in the liver.The liver may be enlarged,and you may experience discomfort in your upper abdomen.Fatty liver occurs in almost all people who drink heavily.
2)Alcoholic Hepatitis

An inflammation of the liver due to alcohol.In its mild form, alcoholic hepatitis can last for years and cause progressive liver damage.In its severe form,the disease may occur suddenly,after binge drinking,and can quickly lead to life-threatening complications.
3)Alcoholic Cirrhosis

The most serious type of alcohol-induced liver disease.Cirrhosis refers to the replacement of normal liver tissue with scar tissue.The damage from cirrhosis is not reversible,and it is a life-threatening disease.Many heavy drinkers will progress from fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis and finally to alcoholic cirrhosis,though the progression may vary from patient to patient.

Symptoms of Alcoholic liver disease

.Abdominal pain and tenderness
.Dry mouth
.Excessive thirst
.Fluid accumulation especially in the lower limbs
.Loss of appetite
.Mental confusion
.Abdominal obesity

How is alcohol-induced liver disease diagnosed?

A complete medical history is taken and physical examination done.In addition,the following diagnostic procedures may be recommended:
1)Liver Function Tests - A series of simple blood tests that can determine if the liver is functioning properly.
2) Liver Biopsy: A procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed(with a needle or during surgery)from the body for examination under a microscope.

How is alcohol-induced liver disease treated?

The treatment usually begins with abstinence from alcohol.The patient may need to participate in an alcohol recovery program,conducted at alcohol de-addiction centers.
Doctors may suggest changes in diet.Medications may be needed to manage the complications caused by liver damage.In advanced cases of alcoholic cirrhosis,liver transplant may be the only treatment option.

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