What is Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

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  • Written By: F. Hay
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2019
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Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD), also known as simple steatosis, is a consequence of excessive alcohol consumption. When alcohol is ingested, it ends up in the liver where it is metabolized. Fat, water, and carbon dioxide are some of the end products of the metabolic process and cause an accumulation of excessive fat build-up in the liver. The excess accumulation and storage of fat in the liver is the first stage of alcoholic liver disease. Alcoholic fatty liver disease might be reversible with early detection and complete abstinence from liquor.

A person with early-stage alcoholic fatty liver disease is usually asymptomatic. A routine physical examination can often detect whether the liver is slightly enlarged. Bloods tests, such as a liver panel or a comprehensive metabolic panel, can detect elevated liver enzymes. In order to make a positive diagnosis of alcoholic fatty liver disease, a liver biopsy is normally recommended by the physician. Continued alcohol consumption, once someone is diagnosed with alcoholic fatty liver disease, can lead to hepatitis and cirrhosis which are advanced forms of alcoholic liver disease.


Liver disease covers a broad array of conditions that afflict people who drink excessively, or who drink very little, or people who have never consumed alcohol. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the term used to describe a liver disorder unrelated to alcohol consumption. This type of fatty liver disease often affects more women than men, but includes all age groups. It is most prominent in overweight, middle-aged people and might accompany conditions such as elevated triglyceride levels, elevated cholesterol, or even diabetes.

The liver is responsible for numerous duties such as bile production, filtering, and storage of blood, metabolism of sugars and fat, and making compounds for clotting and control of blood volumes. When liver function is compromised by excessive fatty infiltration, caused by excessive alcohol consumption, symptoms of abdominal discomfort, nausea, weakness, malaise, or even anorexia can eventually surface. Many people diagnosed with a liver disorder also experience jaundice, which is an increase in bilirubin in the blood and causes yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes. As a liver disorder progresses, more and more body systems are affected.

Treatment options for fatty liver disease depend upon whether the disease is alcohol-induced. In order to keep alcohol-induced fatty liver disease from progressing into advanced hepatitis or cirrhosis, complete abstinence of alcohol is imperative. When a person is diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, doctors recommend weight loss, a diet low in sugar and fat, and exercise. It is important to eat healthy foods and start exercising. Treatment of severe cases of alcoholic and nonalcoholic liver disease might also require a liver transplant.



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