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What Are the Symptoms of Alcoholic Hepatitis?

Types of liver disease, including fibrosis and cirrhosis, complications of hepatitis.
Alcoholic liver disease can lead to alcoholic hepatitis.
Article Details
  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Many people with alcoholic hepatitis do not notice any symptoms until the disease progresses, at which point discomfort and pain often ensue. Some of the most common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis are nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and stomach pain. The skin and eyes may begin to look yellow as jaundice sets in, and the abdomen may swell despite the inability to eat normally. Some people with this condition may also feel exhausted and confused often, and also exhibit a fever. Unfortunately, some people never get symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis, which may mean that they do not get the treatment they need.

In most cases, exhaustion and symptoms that involve the digestive system, such as nausea, appetite loss, and pain in the stomach, are usually the first signs of this condition. Patients may attribute the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis to something else, such as general illness, thus failing to seek treatment. When this occurs, more serious symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis may show up, such as bloody vomit, jaundice, abdominal bloating, and confusion. This condition may eventually lead to liver failure and even death, so while the patients who notice these symptoms are often quite ill, the consequences may be worse for those who are asymptomatic.

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Alcoholic hepatitis is the second stage of alcoholic liver disease, with the first being fatty liver, and the third being cirrhosis. Fatty liver typically has no symptoms, but it also is considered reversible, as those who stop drinking alcohol once it is detected often suffer no long-term consequences. Unfortunately, since most people have no symptoms of fatty liver, it often progresses to the next stage of alcoholic hepatitis, which is also usually reversible once the alcohol is permanently out of the system. Those who do not stop drinking may eventually get cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver that cannot be reversed, typically requiring a liver transplant.

Not all heavy drinkers end up with alcoholic hepatitis, as certain factors increase the risks of developing this condition. They often include malnourishment, a genetic predisposition, and hepatitis C. Of course, since not everyone notices symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis, it is important for those at risk to periodically get checked for this issue by a doctor, which can be done through blood tests, liver biopsy, or ultrasound. Patients who are diagnosed with this issue will be strongly advised to stop drinking alcohol, and may also get drugs to reduce inflammation of the liver. Those with serious damage may need to get on the long list for a liver transplant.

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