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Definition of Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is a condition which leads to inflammation of a person's liver. It is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. Alcoholic hepatitis generally occurs in heavy drinkers over time. However, not all heavy drinkers are affected by alcoholic hepatitis. The disease can also occur in moderate drinkers.

Causes of Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by an excess intake of alcohol damaging the liver of the person. Alcohol can cause inflammation which damages the liver cells. This further leads to cirrhosis which is the final stage of a certain kind of liver disease.

Other factors that can increase the risk of alcoholic hepatitis include:

  • The quantity of alcohol consumed
  • Obesity
  • Gender (women are at higher risk to get affected by alcoholic hepatitis)
  • Binge drinking
  • Malnutrition
  • Hepatitis C

Symptoms of Alcoholic Hepatitis

The alcoholic hepatitis symptoms vary from person to person depending on the amount of damage done to the liver. The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Confusion
  • Failure of kidney and liver (in severe cases)

Diagnosis of Alcoholic Hepatitis

The doctor will conduct several tests and physical examinations to diagnose alcoholic hepatitis. The doctor may also require the person's alcohol consumption history and further seek information from family and friends.

The tests that help in diagnosing alcoholic hepatitis include:

  • Liver function tests
  • Blood tests (CBC)
  • MRI, Ultrasound or CT scan of the liver
  • Biopsy of liver

Treatment of Alcoholic Hepatitis

The alcoholic hepatitis treatment includes drinking cessation, malnutrition treatment, and medication to reduce inflammation of liver and liver transplant if all fails.

Drinking Cessation

If a person is suffering from alcoholic hepatitis, the only way out is to quit drinking as it reverses the liver damage and prevents it from worsening. If the person is heavily dependent on alcohol and wishes to quit, there are several ways that can help. These include medication, counselling, support groups and residential treatment program.

Malnutrition Treatment

If the person is suffering from low appetite, the doctor may recommend a special diet to balance nutrients and vitamins. In severe cases, tube feeding is also recommended.

Medication to Reduce Inflammation of Liver

If the person has severe alcoholic hepatitis, the doctor might recommend the medications like corticosteroids and pentoxifylline that help in reducing inflammation of liver.

Liver Transplant

In the severe cases of alcoholic hepatitis, a liver transplant is suggested by the doctor.

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