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Alcohol is a psychoactive, central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. Harvard Health explains that “alcohol directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It affects levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as inflammation and coagulation. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.” Alcohol is a toxin that must be eliminated from the body to function normally. Research indicates that 10% of this toxin can be naturally released through bodily functions such as sweating, breathing, and urinating, while the remaining 90% of alcohol in the body must be eliminated by the liver. When you consume more alcohol than your liver can effectively process, alcohol and its byproducts can damage your liver. Alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of liver damage, and when this occurs, it is referred to as alcohol-related liver disease.

Signs and Symptoms

There are rarely symptoms that present in the early stages of alcohol-related liver disease. For this reason, it is not uncommon to be unaware of the fact that you may have experienced liver damage due to alcohol until the disease is advanced. According to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, when symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease do present, they may include:

  • Abdominal pain and/ or tenderness
  • Dry mouth and/ or increased thirst 
  • Fatigue 
  • Jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Skin may appear abnormally dark or light 
  • Feet and/ or hands may look red 
  • Small, red, spider-like blood vessels may appear on the skin
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Dark, bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds

Alcohol may cause hepatitis, which is swelling and inflammation of the liver. Over time, this can lead to the final phase of alcohol-related liver disease: scarring and irreversible cirrhosis of the liver. The signs and symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease will vary, as they depend upon the severity of your disease. A variety of tests (e.g., blood test, liver function test, liver biopsy, etc.) are used to determine the presence of alcohol-related liver disease. Additional tests are also often conducted to rule out other diseases that could be causing symptoms.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com

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