Substance Use

Alcoholic Cirrhosis: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Alcoholic Liver Disease

Cirrhosis is a late-stage form of liver disease. In the early phases of liver disease, some people may not encounter any symptoms. Alcohol use disorder, hepatitis, and fatty liver disease are all contributing factors to alcoholic cirrhosis.

The approach to treatment for cirrhosis is based on the underlying cause of the condition and the extent of liver damage. Patients whose conditions progress to liver failure may require a liver transplant.

Chronic heavy drinking can lead to all sorts of complications with your liver, including alcoholic cirrhosis, liver disease, and liver cancer. In this blog post, we’ll examine the symptoms and causes of cirrhosis, as well as treatment options for alcohol-related liver disease and how to get help to stop drinking alcohol.

Are you or a loved one struggling to quit drinking even though alcohol abuse is wreaking havoc on your health? Zinnia Health can help. Call our alcohol help hotline now at (855) 430-9439 to speak with one of our caring and compassionate intake specialists who can walk you through the next steps in your treatment journey. 

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What Is Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver?

Alcoholic liver disease is an umbrella term for a spectrum of disorders. Alcoholic cirrhosis refers to the end-stage of liver disease that happens when healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, which permanently damages the liver. Scar tissue is detrimental to proper liver function.

According to the National Institutes of Health, liver diseases and conditions can damage healthy liver cells, resulting in cell death and inflammation. When this happens, cells go to work to repair the damage, and tissue scarring is a result of the repair process.

When scar tissue builds up in the liver, it obstructs blood flow, which can impede the organ’s ability to metabolize nutrients, hormones, drugs, and toxins. Furthermore, scar tissue build-up can lower the liver’s ability to generate proteins and other essential substances.

Cirrhosis can eventually impair the liver’s ability to function normally. In advanced stages, cirrhosis of the liver can be life-threatening.

What Are the Early Symptoms of Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), there are often no symptoms of cirrhosis until the later stages of liver disease, once the liver has already sustained damage.

Some early symptoms of cirrhosis might include:

  • Feeling more tired or weaker than usual
  • Appetite loss
  • Unintended weight loss and malnutrition
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mild pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Loss of sex drive

What Are the Signs That Cirrhosis Has Progressed?

As the condition progresses and liver function worsens, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Easily bleeding and bruising
  • Edema, or swollen legs, ankles, and/or feet
  • Bloating from a build-up of fluid in the abdomen, known as ascites
  • Severe itchy skin
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, known as jaundice
  • Spiderlike blood vessels
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Personality changes

What Causes Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

The NIDDK says that there are several different causes of the condition. The most common causes are:

  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Chronic hepatitis C
  • Chronic hepatitis B
  • Bile ducts destruction caused by primary biliary cholangitis
  • Wilson’s disease, a condition where copper builds up in the liver

If you’re struggling to quit drinking alcohol on your own, Zinnia Health can help. We offer addiction treatment and supportive care at our inpatient facilities to help you quit drinking for good. We also offer a broad range of counseling and therapy services for continued support. 

What Are the Complications of Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Some of the most common complications of cirrhosis include:

  • High blood pressure: Portal hypertension, or high blood pressure that’s isolated in the veins that provide blood to the liver, is a common complication of cirrhosis.
  • Enlarged spleen: Spleen swelling can also be caused by portal hypertension trapping white blood cells and platelets.
  • A reduction in the number of white blood cells and platelets present in the bloodstream is often one of the first signs of cirrhosis.
  • Bleeding: When someone has portal hypertension, blood flow can be redirected to smaller veins, which can burst from the increased pressure, often resulting in severe bleeding. The condition can also cause the veins in the stomach or esophagus to enlarge or explode, which is known as varices. This condition can be life-threatening if the veins bleed.
  • Ascites: This is the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, which can cause swelling and discomfort. Severe ascites can also lead to respiratory problems and increase the risk of infection.
  • Infections: People with cirrhosis have a harder time fighting infections. Bacterial peritonitis, which is a severe infection, may develop as a result of ascites.
  • A build-up of toxins in the brain: When the liver becomes damaged from cirrhosis, it can’t properly clear toxins from the blood. When these toxins build up in the brain, they can cause mental confusion and delayed processing. This condition is called hepatic encephalopathy. As time progresses, this condition may worsen and eventually lead to a state of unresponsiveness or coma.
  • Bone disease: People with cirrhosis may lose bone strength easier, putting them at an increased risk of fractures and bone disease.
  • Increased risk of liver cancer: Cirrhosis is a leading factor in the development of liver cancer.
  • Liver failure: Most often, chronic liver failure is the result of cirrhosis.

There are a number of different treatment options for cirrhosis, which all depend on the severity of the disease and the extent of the liver damage. Some of the treatment options that healthcare providers commonly deploy include:

  • Stopping alcohol consumption: Liver damage can often be reversed by quitting drinking.
  • Nutritional counseling: Malnutrition is common in people with cirrhosis, and nutritional support may be necessary to improve liver function and promote overall health. A balanced diet with adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals is key.
  • Medication: People with more advanced stages of liver disease and with more damage to the liver may be prescribed medications to reduce inflammation or treat infections. There are also procedures that drain the fluid build-up in the abdomen.
  • Liver transplant: The most severe cases of alcoholic cirrhosis require a liver transplant. This involves surgically removing the damaged liver and replacing it with a healthy liver from a donor.

It’s important to note that early intervention is key when it comes to treating alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. So if you have been experiencing any of the symptoms we’ve gone over in this article, seek medical attention immediately to prevent further liver damage and improve your chances of recovery.

Zinnia Health Can Help With Alcoholic Cirrhosis

If you’re having a hard time controlling your alcohol consumption, you’re not alone. Zinnia Health is here for you. Our experienced team of addiction counselors and other healthcare providers will work one-on-one with you to develop a customized treatment plan. Contact us today to learn more.

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