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Alcohol Related Liver Disease

Liver disease relating to alcohol is caused by years of excessive alcohol abuse. Also known as ARLD, this disease causes the liver to become swollen and inflamed. This is extremely serious as it causes liver failure, resulting in a fatality.

Over-consuming alcohol can lead to a buildup of inflammation, fats, and scarring, which is extremely dangerous and can be fatal if not treated in time.

The liver is a vital and complex organ. It has over 500 functions. These functions include filtering out toxins in the blood, regulating cholesterol, and creating proteins. In addition, the liver is quite effective at healing and regenerating itself, which can cause the damage to go unnoticed until it is too late. 

There are, however, ways in which a person can receive treatment, such as medication. Lifestyle changes and surgery are also viable options considering the severity of the damage. Systems of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

Stages of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

There are three stages of Alcohol-Related Liver disease. The symptoms will depend on which of the three stages the person has. These stages are;

  1. Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease – this is the first stage. However, when the fat starts to build up around the liver, this can be cured by not drinking alcohol anymore.
  2. Acute Alcoholic Hepatitis – this stage is when alcohol abuse causes swelling and inflammation of the liver. In severe Alcoholic Hepatitis cases, it can lead to liver failure, but it is treated, then in some cases, the damage can be reserved.
  3. Alcoholic Cirrhosis – this stage is the most severe. It is irreversible and will more than likely lead to liver failure. The liver will be damaged beyond repair and have immense scarring from alcohol abuse. 

Symptoms of ARLD

In the beginning, it will be difficult to notice the damage being done to the liver, but once the disease progresses, the symptoms will become increasingly prominent. Some the signs of late-liver disease can include;

  • Bleeding and bruising easily
  • Blood is present in stool and vomit.
  • Weakened strength and muscles
  • Fingernails begin to club (excessively curve downwards)
  • Very itchy skin
  • Loss of weight 
  • Shivering and fevers
  • Swelling of lower limbs (oedema)
  • Jaundice (yellow tint to eyes and skin)
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites)

The earlier signs of the disease are often overlooked and vague. A range of different systems is affected in the body, which will cause a general feeling of unwellness. Some of these early signs may be;

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased or no appetite

Treatment Options For You

When it comes to treating Alcohol-Related Liver Disease, there are primarily two goals. The first one is to help the patient stop alcohol consumption, and the second is to improve the current damage to the liver. 

The doctor could recommend various treatment options for you:

  •  Multivitamins – due to low B-complex vitamins in those who drink heavily, the doctor may prescribe multivitamins as this deficiency can lead to malnutrition and anaemia.
  • Vitamin A supplements – It’s a very common deficiency to have with ARLD. The doctor might prescribe supplements.
  • Alcoholic Rehabilitation Program – if the patient is unable to stop drinking on their own, they will be advised to find help from a program such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Liver Transplant – this option is usually given when the damage to the liver is irreparable.

How to Prevent/Deal with Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

To help prevent ARLD and other related illnesses to the consumption of alcohol, it is recommended to follow the national guidelines given for the intake of alcohol. 

The moderate drinking classification is one drink a day for a woman and two for a man. However, binge drinking, which is consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period, can immensely increase the risk of liver damage. Binge drinking is considered when a man consumes about five or more drinks and a woman four or more in a period of two hours. 

If you have been a heavy drinker for many years, it is important to know that cutting down or stopping can still help long and short-term improvements of your liver’s health and prevent further and irreversible damage.


  1. Is ARLD curable? Yes, however, it depends on what stage it is in and the condition of your liver. There are ways to reverse and treat the damage that has been caused by excessive alcohol consumption via medication, stopping drinking, and liver transplantation. 
  2. ARLD life expectancy? If the person develops compensated Cirrhosis, their expectancy is around 9-12 years. It is not always fatal and can still be treated depending on the level of scarring. 
  3. Who is more likely to get ARLD? ARLD can affect anyone, but more so, those who are more susceptible to getting Alcohol-Related Liver Disease are overweight, females, have an existing liver condition, and genetics also play a role.
  4. How do doctors diagnose ARLD? If the doctor suspects ARLD, then they will run tests. These tests will include one or more of the following; blood tests, ultrasound scanning, CT scanning, MRI scanning, liver biopsy, and endoscopy. A liver biopsy is when a fine needle is inserted between the ribs. A small liver cell sample will be viewed through a microscope at the hospital. Endoscopy is when a long, thin, flexible tube containing a light and video camera is fed through your oesophagus and into your stomach. The doctor will look on the screen to see if there are any swollen veins (varices) which is a sign of Cirrhosis.  
  5. What is “fatty liver”? Fatty liver is the accumulation of fat droplets in the cytoplasm of the liver cells. It often goes hand in hand with fibrosis. It is present in about 90 to 100 percent of heavy alcohol consumers. It does not cause any problems; however, left untreated and to progress, it will turn into Cirrhosis, leading to fatality. 

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. Always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!