Alcoholic Liver Disease
Liver disease related to alcohol consumption fits into one of three categories: fatty liver (Steatosis), alcoholic hepatitis (Steatohepatitis), and alcoholic cirrhosis. Alcoholic fatty liver is a condition that can develop within days of excessive alcohol consumption. Typically there are no signs and symptoms of this condition and the patient will not be aware of the fact that it has occurred. Alcoholic hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver due to the toxic effects of alcohol and usually occurs after years of alcohol consumption. The signs and symptoms are usually
vague but can range from mild discomfort to a life-threatening conditions involving bleeding. The final stage is the alcoholic cirrhosis or end stage liver disease. Alcoholic cirrhosis is the primary cause of cirrhosis in the Western world. It is estimated that it is responsible for 44% of cirrhosis deaths in North America ( Dickerson, 2006).
The initial change, the fatty liver is just what it sounds like, an accumulation of fat within the liver cells. In the fatty liver, large droplets of fat, containing mostly triglycerides, collect within the liver cells (Gale, 2006). Fatty liver stage is usually asymptomatic and reversible with the reduction of alcohol. The second stage alcoholic hepatitis is when inflammation and cell necrosis occurs. During this stage fibrous tissues form which is irreversible and can lead to obstruction of blood and bile flow. The progression of hepatitis can vary from person to person and continued alcohol consumption.
Continuing alcohol consumption will lead to the third and final stage of alcoholic liver disease; alcoholic cirrhosis. Alcoholic cirrhosis is a disorder in which the liver demonstrates extensive diffuse fibrosis and loss of lobular organization (Gould, 2006); Now that we know what the progression of the disease looks like, let’s take a look at the cause of the disease.
The cause of alcoholic liver disease is obviously caused by the abuse of alcohol. Heavy drinking over many years may lead to liver damage and disease. There is a clear dose-dependant relationship between the alcohol intake and the occurrence of cirrhosis. The amount of alcohol is variable, but quantities greater than four or five beers a day are considered harmful. Some researchers estimate the alcoholism related numbers in cirrhosis to be as high as 75 to 80% (Dickerson, 2006).
Although alcohol consumption plays the main role in the development of alcoholic liver disease, genetics and gender also play a role in who will be more likely to develop the disease. Since we all know that the liver metabolizes most drugs put into our bodies, it is easy to see that drugs used to treat liver disease are slim. I have chosen to tell you about the most widely studied drug used in liver disease; corticosteroids.