When one drinks alcohol heavily over a long period of time, the body can begin to replace healthy tissues in the liver with scar tissues. This condition is known as alcoholic liver cirrhosis, an advanced form of liver disease that is related to alcohol consumption. As the disease progresses, more of the healthy liver tissue will be replaced and the liver will eventually stop functioning properly.
Our liver is a vital organ that does an important job in the body such as breaking down proteins and filtering the blood of toxins. Because the liver tissue starts to scar, it will affect the performance of the liver. The disease can also be part of a progression, starting from fatty liver disease, to alcoholic hepatitis and then progress to alcoholic cirrhosis. However, it is also possible that one can develop alcoholic liver cirrhosis without initially having alcoholic hepatitis.
Symptoms of alcoholic liver cirrhosis
Some people have the impression that alcoholic liver cirrhosis will show certain symptoms. They will continue drinking hoping that some symptoms will come about and only stop drinking when the symptoms occur.
However, in the early stages, there might not be symptoms at all. They begin to appear or be noticeable only in the later stages, which can often be too late.
These symptoms share similarities to other alcohol-related liver disorders and include:
- Lower limb swelling
- Confusion or problems thinking
- Abdominal swelling
- Kidney failure
The chances of getting alcoholic liver disease or cirrhosis increase the longer a person have been drinking and the more alcohol is consumed. Additionally, liver cells are only able to process a certain amount of alcohol and break it down into other chemicals hourly. If alcohol is consumed at a faster rate than the liver is able to process, the body’s bloodstream will see a rise in alcohol levels which can be damaging.
Therefore, alcohol should always be taken in moderation. Always watch out for signs that you need to stop drinking. Firstly, look at the quantity you drink and whether you are drinking large amounts in one sitting. It is recommended that it is safe for an adult male to consume 3 cans of beer and 2 cans of beer for an adult female a day. Frequency is also another factor. If you drink daily or almost every day, it is a good time to pause for a while.
Gastroenterology specialists can diagnose alcoholic liver cirrhosis. Besides discussing the patient’s history of drinking and taking a medical history, the doctor will also run tests that are able to confirm a cirrhosis diagnosis.
Fibroscan is also able to assist in the diagnosis as well as give a complete assessment of one’s liver health. This non-invasive scan measures the stiffness of the liver and provides an estimate of the amount of scarring present in the liver. It helps to assess patients suffering from liver diseases such as hepatitis B, cirrhosis or fatty liver in Singapore, and whether they may need to start treatment accordingly.