What Does Chronic Consumption of Alcohol Do to One's Liver?
Dear Dr. Steve:
dad has always been a heavy drinker but because he was able to function, I never thought
of him as an alcoholic. A typical weeks worth of drinking for him would be a six
pack of beer on week nights and a case or more of beer on the weekends. After years of
ignoring my mothers plea to go see a doctor he finally went last week. The results
of one of his tests indicated that he has developed cirrhosis of the liver. Believe me,
were all in shock. Since hearing the news, my dad has cut back, but hasn't quit
drinking. He has 2 or 3 beers everyday. Will cutting back stop his liver disease?
consumption of large quantities of alcohol can cause damage to your bodys organs.
Your liver is particularly vulnerable to the damage that chronic consumption of large
quantities of alcohol can cause. A disease of the liver that can be caused by chronic
consumption of large quantities of alcohol is cirrhosis, also known as alcohol liver
disease. In the first step of cirrhosis, the liver cells become injured and accumulate
tiny droplets of fat ("fatty infiltration" or "fatty degeneration").
As more and more cells suffer fatty infiltration, the liver becomes enlarged. If the
alcohol addiction cycle continues, scar formation occurs with constriction of the scar
producing more scar formation, until the process becomes irreversible.
liver function is essential to life. Your liver performs more than 300 functions. To lose
normal functioning of your liver could be and oftentimes is fatal. In fact it is estimated
that between 10,000 and 24,00 deaths occur each year because of alcohol liver disease.
cirrhosis usually develops after 10 years of chronic consumption of large quantities of
alcohol. Genetic factors may shorten that time-span for some people. The amount of alcohol
consumed that leads to cirrhosis varies. In women, as few as 2-3 drinks per day has been
linked to alcohol liver disease, and, in men, as little as 3-4 drinks has been linked to
alcohol liver disease.
reason that cirrhosis can be so deadly is that once a liver is damaged the liver
cant remove toxins from your blood system. This causes those toxins to build-up in
your blood and eventually in your brain. Once the toxins build-up in your brain, they
begin to compromise your mental functioning. Once this happens, you may begin to
experience personality changes, slip into a coma, or even die.
liver function affects the body in many ways. From the National Digestive Diseases
Clearinghouse here are common problems, or complications, caused by cirrhosis.
Edema and Ascites. When the liver loses its ability to make the protein albumin,
water accumulates in the leg (edema) and abdomen (ascites).
Bruising and Bleeding. When the liver slows or stops production of the proteins
needed for blood clotting, a person will bruise or bleed easily.
Jaundice. Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that occurs when the
diseased liver does not absorb enough bilirubin.
Itching. Bile products deposited in the skin may cause intense itching.
Gallstones. If cirrhosis prevents bile from reaching the gallbladder, a person may
Toxins in the Blood or Brain. A damaged liver cannot remove toxins from the blood,
causing them to accumulate in the blood and eventually the brain. There, toxins can dull
mental functioning and cause personality changes, coma, and even death. Signs of the
buildup of toxins in the brain include neglect of personal appearance, unresponsiveness,
forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, or changes in sleep habits.
Sensitivity to Medication. Cirrhosis slows the liver's ability to filter
medications from the blood. Because the liver does not remove drugs from the blood at the
usual rate, they act longer than expected and build up in the body. This causes a person
to be more sensitive to medications and their side effects.
Portal Hypertension. Normally, blood from the intestines and spleen is carried to
the liver through the portal vein. But cirrhosis slows the normal flow of blood through
the portal vein, which increases the pressure inside it. This condition is called portal
Varices. When blood flow through the portal vein slows, blood from the intestines
and spleen backs up into blood vessels in the stomach and esophagus. These blood vessels
may become enlarged because they are not meant to carry this much blood. The enlarged
blood vessels, called varices, have thin walls and carry high pressure, and thus are more
likely to burst. If they do burst, the result is a serious bleeding problem in the upper
stomach or esophagus that requires immediate medical attention.
Problems in Other Organs. Cirrhosis can cause immune system dysfunction, leading to
infection. Ascites (fluid) in the abdomen may become infected with bacteria normally
present in the intestines, and cirrhosis can also lead to kidney dysfunction and failure.
well known symptom of cirrhosis is jaundice. Jaundice manifests itself as a yellowing of
the skin and eyes. The presence of jaundice indicates that your liver has been severely
damage from cirrhosis is irreversible. Treatment can only stop or delay the progression of
cirrhosis. When the cause of cirrhosis is chronic consumption of large quantities of
alcohol, the treatment is abstinence from alcohol and maintaining a healthy diet.
Although the complications caused by cirrhosis can be treated, once damage to the liver
from scarring becomes so extensive that the liver stops functioning, the only treatment is
a liver transplant. Although survival rates for transplants have increased in recent
years, 10 to 20 per cent do not survive the transplant surgery.
Your father needs to quick drinking
altogether. Its likely that hes spent a lifetime minimizing his drinking and
the impact that his drinking has had on his body. You should consult a qualified
professional to assist you in helping you break through the denial system of your father.
It is critical that he stop drinking and develop a lifestyle that does not exacerbate his
chemical dependency and its impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be
alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book
Insanity to Serenity.