What are the Effects of Alcohol on the Liver? (with pictures)

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning
Several types of liver disease: hepatic steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
Several types of liver disease: hepatic steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.

There are several detrimental effects of alcohol on the liver when it is consumed in excess. Alcohol is one of the most common causes of liver disease. Specific conditions it can cause include cirrhosis, hepatitis, and fatty liver disease. If a heavy drinker does not reduce the intake of alcohol, it is possible to progressively suffer from all of these conditions, either one at a time or all together.

The liver processes alcohol so that it can exit the body. Excessive consumption of alcohol can overload the liver with more to break down than it can handle. It is this condition that leads to liver problems that range from the curable to the fatal.

Excessive consumption of alcohol can overload the liver and cause an array of problems.
Excessive consumption of alcohol can overload the liver and cause an array of problems.

A fatty liver is one of the most common effects of alcohol on the liver. It is characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat in the cells of the liver. The disease can be fatal, but will often go away on its own if alcohol use is stopped. Though symptoms do not always present themselves, if they do appear they can include loss of weight, fatigue, or uncharacteristic weakness.

Too much alcohol can overwhelm the liver, potentially causing damage to it.
Too much alcohol can overwhelm the liver, potentially causing damage to it.

Another one of the most common effects of alcohol on the liver is alcoholic hepatitis. It primarily consists of damage and swelling of the liver. Common symptoms include jaundice, fever, nausea, and vomiting. If a heavy drinker does not stop the consumption of alcohol, fatty liver disease can lead to this condition.

The worst of the most common effects of alcohol on the liver is alcoholic cirrhosis. It typically affects individuals who have already gotten other illnesses from excessive consumption of alcohol. The primary characteristic of the disease is the development of hard scars on the liver. Once a heavy drinker has contracted cirrhosis, permanent damage has been done to the body, and cessation of drinking can only keep the condition from getting worse.

Excessive alcohol consumption is a common cause of liver disease.
Excessive alcohol consumption is a common cause of liver disease.

When an individual has kept drinking until the development of cirrhosis, there is a dramatic increase in the possibility of liver failure. At this point, a liver transplant is usually the only way to avoid death. The patient must stop drinking alcohol in order to be eligible for the procedure.

The best way to treat all of the conditions of the liver caused by alcohol is to stop drinking alcohol completely. Then symptoms can be treated with medication or surgery, though there may be permanent damage that cannot be reversed. It is also important to develop a long-term, healthy diet that will help the liver to heal and regain proper function.

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    • Several types of liver disease: hepatic steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
      Several types of liver disease: hepatic steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
    • Excessive consumption of alcohol can overload the liver and cause an array of problems.
      Excessive consumption of alcohol can overload the liver and cause an array of problems.
    • Too much alcohol can overwhelm the liver, potentially causing damage to it.
      Too much alcohol can overwhelm the liver, potentially causing damage to it.
    • Excessive alcohol consumption is a common cause of liver disease.
      Excessive alcohol consumption is a common cause of liver disease.
    • Mixing alcohol with medication is very harmful to the liver.
      Mixing alcohol with medication is very harmful to the liver.
    • Because the liver filters toxins and waste from the blood, if the organ fails to work properly a person can become seriously ill.
      Because the liver filters toxins and waste from the blood, if the organ fails to work properly a person can become seriously ill.