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Alcoholic Liver Disease

Excessive consumption of alcohol over a long period of time can result in serious liver disease.

One of the largest threats to the health of heavy drinkers is damage to the liver.  Alcoholic liver disease is inflammation that has progressed to fibrosis and scarring of the liver from excessive alcohol drinking, says Dr. Fariba Javadi, assistant professor of gastroenterology at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  She explains the amount of alcohol that causes liver problems.

“... for women, about two drinks a day, and for men three drinks a day of a shot of 80-proof liquor, or a glass of wine or a 12-ounce beer on a daily basis for a period of ten years and some have said five to ten years.”

Alcoholic liver disease doesn’t usually have symptoms, but fat in the liver cells causes inflammation or a hepatitis, which can be diagnosed by blood tests.  With continued excessive alcohol consumption the disease progresses to cirrhosis of the liver, which causes symptoms in patients.

“... they may develop fluid in their belly.  They may develop cognitive dysfunction with memory loss or confusion symptoms.  Or they may have an episode of vomiting blood, or have black bowel movements ...”

Dr. Javadi says the only treatment for alcoholic liver disease is to quit drinking. If someone you know consumes an excessive amount alcohol on a regular basis, they should see their primary care physician and be checked for liver disease. 

Ruth Slottag