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Signs Liver Damage

As the wife of a person managing the effects of heavy drinking, you wrestle with a relentless mix of emotions, including a daily dose of guilt, anger, and despair. Above it all, though, is a profound worry for their well-being. The persistent abdominal pain, the fatigue that never seems to improve, the yellowing of the eyes – could these be signs of something more serious?

signs of liver damage

For countless spouses and caregivers navigating the roller coaster of emotions that accompany a loved one’s alcohol use disorder, the fear goes beyond what’s happening at the present moment. You wonder about the unseen damage that’s accumulating with every drink. The hangovers and arguments can easily distract from a more permanent concern — the potential onset of alcohol-related liver disease.

If you’re experiencing these concerns, you’re not alone. Understanding the signs of alcohol-related liver damage may be the first step toward reclaiming the health and future of the person you care for.

In the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area, more than 20% of people aged 12 or older participate in binge drinking according to a study by SAMHSA.

And, over the past 20 years, alcohol-related deaths have nearly tripled for people between the ages of 25 – 34.

At Clean Recovery Centers, we understand that alcohol’s ties to the community are strong, which can make quitting feel overwhelming or even impossible. Whether you’re simply looking for new life tools to help you get and stay healthy, or you’ve reached rock bottom due to heavy drinking, our caring and professional staff can help set you on the road to recovery. We are the only facility in the area that can provide certified Rapid Recovery Therapists (RRT) to help support your wellness journey.

In this article, we’ll delve into some of the signs and symptoms of alcohol-related liver damage. By understanding these signals, you’re taking a caring step for yourself and your loved ones. It’s never about blame or guilt – it’s about love, awareness, and the journey to well-being.

15 Warning Signs of Alcohol-Related Liver Damage

One of the most dangerous aspects of alcohol-related liver damage is the lack of warning signs at the early stages. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all while others easily miss warning signs that mimic common illnesses or the side effects of heavy drinking.

Early signs of alcohol-related liver damage:

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Weight loss
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Feeling sick or generally just “not well”

Mid-to-advanced warning signs may include any or all of the symptoms listed above, plus any of the following:

  1. Itchy skin
  2. Easy bruising
  3. Dry mouth
  4. Fatigue
  5. Red spider veins on the surface of the skin
  6. Swelling or tenderness of the abdomen
  7. Jaundice (yellowish skin or eyes)
  8. Vomiting blood
  9. Blood in stools
  10. Frequent nosebleeds or bleeding gums

With regard to the liver, physical signs of alcoholism may be hard to spot.

Because the early symptoms are easy to miss (and some people don’t experience any), liver damage often goes undiagnosed until the advanced stages, when people experience jaundice or severe stomach pain.

Here’s How the Liver Helps Your Body Process Alcohol

signs of liver damage - acohol treatment at clean recovery centerAnytime we drink alcohol, it travels through our body and into the liver, whose job it is to filter and expel it.

The liver is a superhero organ that deserves more credit than it gets. According to a report by Columbia Surgery, the liver performs more than 500 vital functions that keep our body working. From regulating amino acids and blood clotting to resisting infection, storing vitamins and minerals, and processing glucose, the liver keeps our bodies functioning in a surprising number of ways.

The liver is also responsible for cleaning our blood and expelling toxins (such as alcohol) from our system by way of urine and feces. When the liver filters alcohol, it experiences a process in which some of the liver cells die and new ones regenerate. This is normal.

However, when the liver is consistently forced to process more alcohol than it can handle, it can lose its ability to regenerate cells. This causes damage such as inflammation and scarring that can lead to diminished performance or even complete liver failure.

The 3 Stages of Alcohol-Related Liver Damage

There are three stages of alcoholic liver damage, including fatty liver disease, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

  1. Alcoholic fatty liver disease. At the earliest stages of liver damage, the organ becomes enlarged due to a buildup of fat inside its cells. At this point, if you stop drinking the damage can be completely reversed. However, continued drinking will likely lead to a more serious condition known as alcoholic hepatitis.
  2. Alcoholic hepatitis. This is a serious form of liver damage in which the organ becomes inflamed, liver cells die, and permanent scarring takes place. During the early stages of alcoholic hepatitis, you can reverse the damage by stopping drinking permanently. However, if the hepatitis becomes severe, you may be at risk for sudden liver failure or death.
  3. Alcoholic cirrhosis. This happens when there is so much damage that healthy liver tissue is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue. When this occurs, people often develop kidney problems and other serious issues such as intestinal bleeding, liver cancer, and severe infections.Alcoholic Cirrhosis is almost always permanent, however, if you catch it before it leads to complete liver failure (provided you abstain from drinking) you can likely work with your doctor to manage the symptoms and keep the disease from progressing.

Abstaining from alcohol goes a long way toward reversing or controlling liver damage. But even with this knowledge, stopping drinking can be a huge challenge and something you’d rather put off until later. Seeking treatment from a caring detox and recovery facility can help you overcome those hurdles more quickly so you can avoid doing further damage to your liver.

How Dangerous Is Too Much Alcohol for the Liver (And How Much Is Too Much)?

When we drink more than what our liver can safely process, it puts a strain on the organ that, over time, results in inflammation, scarring, and severe damage to the liver. Severe liver damage can lead to hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver failure, or sudden death.

On average, a liver can typically (but not always) process about one drink per hour and up to two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women. However, the Centers for Disease Control advises that any amount of daily drinking, or binge drinking, can put the body at risk for other diseases and alcohol-related harm.

According to the National Library of Medicine, consuming more than 2-½ ounces (80 grams) of alcohol per day will result in liver damage 100% of the time over the course of about ten years. Liver damage can also occur in a short period of time, especially in people who partake in binge drinking.

The Simple Test That Can Detect Alcohol-Related Liver Damage

Liver disease can be detected through a simple series of blood tests. It can also show up on an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI. Because the warning signs of liver damage are easy to miss (and sometimes never appear), it’s critical that you’re open with your doctor when asked about your drinking habits.

A simple blood test could save your life, but the doctor may not run the test if you’re not transparent about how much alcohol you drink. If you’re concerned about alcohol-related liver damage, or if you’re experiencing any of the warning signs, don’t hesitate to see your doctor and ask about having your liver health tested.

Getting Treatment for Alcoholism Before Liver Damage Goes Too Far

At any stage of alcoholism and most stages of liver damage, stopping drinking can prevent the progression of liver disease and sometimes even fully reverse it. While liver damage is serious and can rapidly become life-threatening, its main treatment sounds very simple: stop drinking.

But managing an alcohol use disorder isn’t as simple as it sounds.

With drinking woven so deeply into our communities and our habits, stopping poses a greater challenge than perhaps even your closest friends and family understand. At Clean Recovery Centers, we understand how difficult it can be to stop drinking, even when your life may depend on it. Our caring and professional staff can help guide you through the process of quitting and provide you with the tools and support you need for continued abstinence.

Clean Recovery Center’s unique 3-phase approach to care can help you prepare, take action on your alcohol use, and maintain your health so that you (and your liver) can enjoy a healthier, happier life. Call us today at (855) 381-6111 to learn more about our programs.

FAQs

What are the 5 early signs of liver damage?

The early signs of liver damage include 1) abdominal pain, 2) loss of appetite, 3) weight loss, 4) diarrhea, and 5) feeling sick or generally just “not well.”

How do I make my liver healthy again?

In many cases, simply stopping drinking stops the damage and allows your liver to recover so that you can go on to live a normal life. More severe cases may require medical treatment, such as medication, to prevent liver disease from progressing.

How do I check if my liver is OK?

If you drink heavily or binge drink, ask your doctor about blood tests to detect liver damage.

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