Regular alcohol abuse can cause serious health effects, with the liver as one of the main organs being affected. While most do not begin abusing alcohol with the idea of destroying their bodies throughout time the regular alcohol use, especially in large quantities, will start to cause serious issues within the body alongside the development of a physical dependency. The damage done to the liver is often irreversible and as a vital organ in your body you are putting your life at risk by continuing alcohol use.
We Need Our Livers!
As the largest solid organ in the body the liver typically weighs in at 3 lbs. Our livers perform major and extremely important functions within the body. Blood proteins that aid in clotting, immune system function and oxygen transport are manufactured within the liver. Our livers also are working to store glycogen, a form of glucose, as well as storing excess nutrients and then returning some of these nutrients to the blood stream. The liver even helps by manufacturing bile that is needed to digest food properly and breaks down saturated fat and producing cholesterol.
Our livers work hard to rid the body of harmful substances that enter into the bloodstream such as drugs and alcohol. However when abusing these substances on a regular basis we are causing irreversible damage, liver disease. Often those who abuse Alcohol on a regular basis will develop what is referred to as alcoholic liver, or alcoholic cirrhosis which can be fatal.
The Development Alcoholic Cirrhosis
Regular and excessive alcohol use is the leading cause of alcoholic cirrhosis. This slowly progressing disease takes once healthy liver tissue and replaces it with scarred tissues that over time will prevent the liver from functioning properly. When the liver is affected by alcoholic cirrhosis the scar tissue that has formed begins to block the blood flow through the liver and begins to slow the way the liver processes nutrients, hormones and the filtering of drug, alcohol and other harmful toxins within the body. The overall production of proteins and other substances made by the liver are greatly slowed causing harmful, even fatal effects to the individual.
The Chance of Developing Alcoholic Cirrhosis
Not everyone who drinks alcohol heavily on a regular basis will develop alcoholic cirrhosis. However there are several factors that do increase the individual’s chances of developing this form of liver disease. Studies have shown that women who drink heavily on a regular basis are at a high risk of developing alcoholic cirrhosis in comparison to men. If you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C your risk of developing alcoholic cirrhosis is greatly increased. Some believe that along with alcoholism that people who even drink a fair amount of alcohol are at high risk for alcoholic cirrhosis due to a predisposition or genetic trait. Cirrhosis of the liver is the 12th leading cause of death by disease according to the National Institutes of Health.
Diagnosing Alcoholic Cirrhosis
If you are concerned that you may have developed alcoholic cirrhosis contact a medical professional for a physical exam and blood tests. If the Doctor is concerned they will follow up with a biopsy, taking a sample of liver tissue, to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no cure for alcoholic cirrhosis, however there are treatment available today that can stop or slow down the progression of the liver disease, lower the amount of damage to the liver cells and to help reduce any complications that may occur. For those suffering from severe alcoholic cirrhosis a liver transplant may be a necessary option however with a history of alcohol abuse getting put on the transplant list can be extremely difficult. Regardless to the severity of your condition it is absolutely necessary to stop drinking and start sober living to help prevent any further damage to your liver.
Alcoholic Cirrhosis Resources
The following sites provide vital information to medical professionals and individuals with Alcoholic Cirrhosis:
- National Institutes of Health
- US Department of Veterans Affairs
- American Liver Foundation
- National Center for Biotechnology Information
- The Mayo Clinic