What is the Connection Between Hepatitis and Alcohol?

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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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In concert with the gallbladder, intestines, and pancreas, the liver helps to digest and process food. Part of this process involves filtering toxins, such as alcohol. Breaking down substantial amounts of toxins over an extended period of time can cause inflammation of the liver, also known as hepatitis. Due to high concentrations of ethanol in alcohol, alcoholics are prone to developing hepatitis.

Hepatitis is a form of liver disease often brought on by alcohol abuse. Progression begins with a condition known as fatty liver, in which fat begins to accumulate in the liver. If left untreated, fatty liver disease progresses to alcoholic hepatitis and provides the initial link between hepatitis and alcohol. Continued drinking and abuse will eventually result in cirrhosis, a serious condition.

The liver produces acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical, as it breaks down the ethanol contained in alcoholic beverages. This toxin triggers inflammation of the liver and destroys liver cells over time. Excess consumption of alcohol and alcohol consumption over time can lead to an increase in the release of this toxic chemical, leading to a chronic state of inflammation and disease.

As a result of the inflammation brought on by the toxin acetaldehyde, scars and clusters of tissue begin to develop. This leads to a replacement of healthy liver tissue that reduces the liver’s ability to filter toxins in the blood. Without a reduction in alcohol consumption, the development of scar tissue continues, eventually resulting in cirrhosis.


In conjunction with the link between hepatitis and alcohol, other factors may contribute to the development of alcoholic hepatitis. Typically, alcoholic hepatitis is more common in women, but this may be due to the difference between the way men and women break down alcohol. Genetic factors affecting how the body metabolizes alcohol can also increase the chance of developing the disease.

Risks of developing alcohol hepatitis increase with increased alcohol abuse over long periods of time. Increased alcohol consumption can also lead to complications such as high blood pressure, fluid retention, and bruising. Other complications include jaundice, enlarged veins, and difficulty clotting blood can stem from hepatitis and alcohol use.

Those at risk for alcoholic hepatitis should be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease. Loss of appetite, nausea, yellowing of the skin, and fever are just a few of the symptoms associated with alcoholic hepatitis. In addition, sufferers may notice mental confusion and fatigue.

Because of the complications arising with hepatitis and alcohol, refraining from drinking alcohol is the only way to possibly reverse liver damage. Continued drinking will make the disease worse and lead to more serious consequences. In addition, treatment for malnutrition and medications to help reduce inflammation of the liver may be recommended.



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