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Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic Hepatitis

What is alcoholic hepatitis?

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, resulting in liver cell damage and destruction. Alcoholic hepatitis is a complex problem and is a precursor to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. If an individual develops alcoholic hepatitis and abstains from drinking, the inflammation is often reversible over time. However, if the individual has already developed cirrhosis, the liver disease can progress rapidly to liver failure.

What are the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • abdominal tenderness
  • spider-like blood vessels in the skin
  • ascites - fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity.
  • poor appetite
  • jaundice - yellowing of the skin and eyes.
  • low fever
  • fatigue
  • feeling ill

The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is alcoholic hepatitis diagnosed?

In addition to complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for alcoholic hepatitis may include the following:

  • specific laboratory blood tests, such as the following:
    • liver function studies
    • cellular blood counts
    • bleeding times
    • electrolyte tests
    • tests for other chemicals in the body
  • ultrasound (Also called sonography.) - a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs of the abdomen such as the liver spleen, and kidneys and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
  • liver biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope.

Treatment for alcoholic hepatitis:

Specific treatment for alcoholic hepatitis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

The individual with alcoholic hepatitis may be admitted to the hospital or treated on an outpatient basis. Abstinence from alcohol is essential for reversing the hepatitis. This is a complex problem that may require an alcohol treatment program. There is no medication to cure alcoholic hepatitis; therefore, treatment involves reducing the symptoms and halting the progression of the disease.

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