Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: What You Need to Know

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

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Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD) is a condition that develops due to excessive alcohol consumption over a period of time.

It's one of the most common forms of liver disease in heavy drinkers and can lead to severe complications if left untreated.

In this blog post, we'll be exploring the various aspects of AFLD, including how alcohol affects the liver, its stages, symptoms, treatment options, and the importance of seeking help for alcohol addiction.


How Alcohol Affects The Liver

The liver is a vital organ responsible for metabolising substances - including alcohol. When you drink alcohol, the liver processes it and breaks it down into harmless byproducts. However, excessive alcohol intake can overwhelm the liver. In the long term, this can lead to liver damage.

Alcohol metabolism produces toxic byproducts that can cause inflammation and fatty deposits in the liver cells. Over time, this can lead to the development of AFLD - also called alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The higher the amount of alcohol you consume and the longer the period of time you engage in heavy drinking, the greater the damage to your liver.


Types of Fatty Liver Disease

There are two main types of fatty liver disease - alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

AFLD is caused by excessive alcohol consumption over time, leading to fat accumulation in the liver cells.

NAFLD, on the other hand, is not related to alcohol intake. Instead, it is associated with factors such as obesity, high cholesterol, or insulin resistance.

Both types of fatty liver disease can progress from simple fat accumulation in the liver (fatty liver) to more severe conditions like inflammation (steatohepatitis), fibrosis (scarring), and cirrhosis (advanced liver damage).

While AFLD can be prevented by controlling your alcohol intake or abstaining from alcohol, NAFLD requires lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight loss to manage and prevent progression.


The Stages of Alcoholic Liver Disease

Alcoholic liver disease progresses through several stages - starting with alcoholic fatty liver disease.

This stage is characterised by the build-up of fat in liver cells due to excessive alcohol intake. If left unchecked and untreated, it can progress to more severe stages, including:

  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis of the liver


Alcoholic hepatitis involves inflammation of the liver, which can cause symptoms such as jaundice, abdominal pain, and swelling.

When it advances, alcoholic liver disease can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. It can impact you for the rest of your life - so if you believe alcohol is affecting your liver, you should seek support as soon as possible.


The Symptoms of Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Alcoholic fatty liver disease can easily go undetected during the early stages - you may not notice any symptoms to begin with.

However, as the condition progresses, you may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Stomach ache and pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Swelling in the abdomen or legs
  • Loss of appetite


If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical advice sooner rather than later. Early detection can help prevent further damage to your liver.


How Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is Treated

Now you understand the ins and outs of ALFD, let’s explore how it’s treated. The best way to treat alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) is to stop drinking alcohol. This can help to prevent further damage and to allow your liver to heal. If you keep your alcohol consumption within the government-recommended guidelines for drinking, you are unlikely to develop alcoholic fatty liver disease.

However, quitting alcohol can be challenging, especially if you have an alcohol addiction. Rehab treatment can equip you with the tools and strategies you need to achieve and maintain sobriety for good.

If you have severe alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis, you may need to spend time in the hospital for a higher level of support. You may be prescribed medications to manage symptoms and prevent complications. These may include corticosteroids, pentoxifylline, or other medications to reduce inflammation and promote liver function.

In some cases, you may need a liver biopsy to assess the extent of liver damage and determine the right course of treatment. However, the most effective way to treat alcoholic liver disease is to address the underlying cause by abstaining from alcohol.


Get Help For Alcohol Addiction Today

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, seeking help is the best thing you can do. At Help4Addiction, we can make this process easier for you. We can connect you with the best, most suitable rehab clinics for you.

We’ll take into account your needs, budget and preferences to determine the best rehab clinic for you to overcome your alcohol addiction for good.

The process begins with detoxification - eliminating alcohol from your life. If you have a severe addiction, we will likely recommend a medical detox to manage the withdrawal symptoms. If you have a mild addiction, you could detox from alcohol at home with an at-home detox kit.

Therapy is the next stage. Therapy in rehab can teach you effective coping strategies, and help you lay the groundwork for lasting recovery. With the right support and treatment, you can overcome alcohol addiction.

Alcoholic liver disease can be reversible if you stop drinking alcohol and make positive lifestyle changes. If, however, you leave it untreated, it could progress into liver failure or liver cancer, and you may need a liver transplant. Don’t wait until it’s too late - take the first steps toward recovery today with Help4Addiction.

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