What Is the Connection between Liver Failure and Alcoholism?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 23 December 2019
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In the human body, the liver is responsible for detoxifying substances that are introduced to the body which may be potentially harmful, including alcohol. Alcohol, in small quantities, may not be overly harmful to the human body; however, in larger quantities, it is like poison. The liver, therefore, must process the "poison" to make it less harmful, but, over time, the liver can be overworked. Alcohol use, or abuse, eventually leads to swelling and inflammation of the liver known as cirrhosis. If not treated, cirrhosis of the liver will inevitably result in failure of this vital organ, leading to death.

Doctors and scientists have been studying the connection between liver failure and alcoholism for years. The younger a person begins to abuse alcohol, and the more frequently he or she drinks, the better the chance the relationship between liver failure and alcoholism will be seen. There is no magic formula for determining who is at higher risk for liver failure other than the certainty that alcoholism plays a part in the liver failing. Not all alcoholics develop liver disease, and, of those that do, not all are heavy drinkers.


The relationship between liver failure and alcoholism can produce a number of symptoms. Anyone with liver problems typically begins to notice jaundicing of the skin, fatigue, and a loss of appetite. Dry mouth, nausea, and a loss of appetite may also be signs of liver failure. As the liver continues to expand and swell, the person will eventually also feel soreness in the area of the liver or tenderness. A build up of fluids is also present both in the legs and in the abdominal area.

In addition to physical symptoms, liver failure and alcoholism can also produce a number of mental symptoms. Confusion and problems paying attention are common for someone affected by liver disease. Agitation and mood swings are also typical of a person with liver failure.

In the early stages of liver disease, it can be reversed and the damage erased. If, however, the liver has reached the stage of cirrhosis, then the damage is irreversible at that point. The most important treatment for an alcoholic with liver problems is to stop drinking. In addition, he or she should take a careful look at his or her diet as alcoholics tend to have a very poor diet which will prevent any potential healing.



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