Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic Hepatitis & Alcoholism Treatment, Causes of Alcoholic Hepatitis, Possible Risk Factors for Alcoholic Hepatitis, Stages of Alcohol-Related Liver Diseases (ARLD), Treatment

The liver is a large organ that lies up under the ribs on the right side of the belly (abdomen).  It helps filter waste from the body.  It also makes bile to help digest food and stores sugar that the body uses for energy. Alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that leads to liver cell damage and cell death. [1]

Immoderate alcohol consumption could result in fatty liver disease or steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis (A.H.), and eventually cirrhosis.  Alcoholic hepatitis typically progresses to cirrhosis if drinking is continued.  And for those who discontinue alcohol, hepatitis recovers to normal within a few months, but the cirrhosis that has already transpired does not reverse. 

Alcoholic Hepatitis
You don’t have to continue drinking to get sick, seek out help to quit alcoholism.

 A survey of liver transplant programs conducted in 2015 revealed only 27% of the programs offering a transplant to A.H. (alcoholic hepatitis) patients. Of the 3,290 liver transplants performed, 1.37% were on A.H. patients. [2]

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Causes of Alcoholic Hepatitis

When alcohol gets processed in the liver, it produces highly toxic chemicals.  These chemicals can damage the liver cells.  This injury then leads to inflammation and alcoholic hepatitis.

Although heavy alcohol use causes alcoholic hepatitis, doctors aren’t entirely sure why the condition develops.  Alcoholic hepatitis develops in a minority of individuals who heavily drink alcohol — no more than 35 percent.  However, it can also develop in people who moderately drink alcohol.

Possible Risk Factors for Alcoholic Hepatitis

Because alcoholic hepatitis doesn’t happen in all people who excessively drink alcohol, other factors may influence the development of this condition.  These include:

  • Genetic factors that affect how the body processes alcohol
  • The presence of liver infections or other liver disorders, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and hemochromatosis
  • Malnutrition
  • Being overweight
  • Timing of drinking about eating (drinking during mealtimes lowers the riskTrusted Source of developing alcoholic hepatitis)
Alcoholic Hepatitis

Women are at a higher risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis.  This may be due to the variations in how the bodies of men and women absorb and break down alcohol.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Hepatitis

The Most Common Symptoms of Alcoholic Hepatitis:

  • Belly (abdomen) tenderness or pain over the liver
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds 
  • Poor Appetite
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Weight Loss
  • Tiredness and Weakness
  • Fever

Alcoholic hepatitis usually develops over time with continued drinking.  But severe alcoholic hepatitis can develop abruptly.  It can quickly lead to liver failure and death.  [3]

The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis may look like other health conditions or problems.    Therefore, always see a doctor for a diagnosis.

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Stages of Alcohol-Related Liver Diseases (ARLD)

There are three main stages of ARLD, although there’s often an overlap between each step.  The National Health Service UK explained below the three stages of ARLD.  [4]

I. Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

  • Drinking a large amount of alcohol, even for just a few days, can build up fats in the liver. This is alcoholic fatty liver disease and is the first stage of ARLD.
  • Fatty liver disease seldom causes any symptoms, but it’s a notable warning sign that you’re drinking at a harmful level.
  • Fatty liver disease is reversible.  If you discontinue drinking alcohol for two weeks, your liver should return to normal.

II. Alcoholic Hepatitis

  • Alcoholic hepatitis (no relations with infectious hepatitis) is a likely severe condition caused by alcohol misuse over a lengthier period.  When this develops, it may be the first time a person is conscious they’re damaging their liver through alcohol.
  • Less commonly, alcoholic hepatitis can happen if you drink a large amount of alcohol in a short period or binge drinking.
  • The liver damage associated with mild alcoholic hepatitis is usually reversible if you stop drinking permanently. Severe alcoholic hepatitis, however, is a painful and fatal illness.
  • Many people die from the disease annually, and some people only find out they have liver damage when their condition reaches this stage.

III. Cirrhosis

  • Cirrhosis is a stage of ARLD where the liver has become critically scarred.  However, even at this stage, there may not be any apparent symptoms.
  • It’s generally not reversible, but quitting drinking alcohol immediately can prevent further damage and significantly increase your life expectancy.
  • A person who has alcohol-related cirrhosis and does not cease drinking has a less than 50% chance of living for at least five more years.

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Treatment Options for Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is an illness because of alcoholism.  So, in conclusion, you need to stop drinking if you receive an alcoholic hepatitis diagnosis.

Quit Drinking

You may be able to reverse the injury to your liver by avoiding alcohol in the early stages of the disease.  However, once more notable damage has occurred, the changes within the liver become permanent.  Considerable damage can lead to conditions such as cirrhosis, blood clotting problems, and high bilirubin levels.

Even if the damage is too difficult to reverse, you should still stop drinking to prevent further harm to your liver.  In people with permanent liver damage due to alcohol, there’s a 30% increase in survival rate among those who stop drinking compared to those who remain to drink.

Medication & Treatment

Treatment for alcoholic hepatitis may involve medications that lessen inflammation in your liver and improve liver function.

Your doctor may also prescribe vitamin and nutrient supplements if you’re malnourished.  These nutrients may need to be administered through a feeding tube if you’re having trouble eating.  Feeding tubes pass nutrient-rich liquids straight into your digestive system through different methods.

A medical professional may also advise a liver transplant if your liver is severely impaired.  To qualify for a transplant, you must confirm that you won’t continue drinking if you receive a new liver.

You’ll also need to refrain from alcohol for at least six months before the transplant.  In some cases, you may require to seek counseling as well.


Individuals with alcoholic hepatitis need long-term follow-up.  Many can benefit from attending A.A. or a similar abuse treatment program.  In addition, serology for viral hepatitis should be required, and period surveillance for liver cancer is suggested.

Furthermore, people with alcoholic hepatitis should also be immunized against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza A virus, and pneumococcus.  [5]

At We Level Up treatment center, we do not believe that long-term recovery comes in a one-size-fits-all program.  For this reason, each client, upon arrival at our alcohol & drug treatment center, will undergo an extensive and comprehensive physical and psychological exam with our team of physicians;  mental health specialists, spiritual advisers, and nutritionists.

Together, we will determine the client’s underlying issues so we can then customize an individualized approach and, when appropriate, provide integrated dual diagnosis treatment.  In addition, the symptoms of the multiple disorders that can occur alongside addiction can present complex and similar symptoms.  Therefore, proper diagnosis requires a highly trained professional staff with years of experience.

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Alcoholism Treatment & Detox

Treatment professionals at a rehab facility will be able to help you manage your pain with different medications. This allows you to focus on your recovery and get better.

Some individuals are fearful of stopping drinking due to concerns about the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detox.  While some individuals may have relatively mild symptoms of drinking, others may experience severe agony.  In addition, withdrawal symptoms can change quickly and aggressively, which is why it’s important to detox under the care of medical professionals.

If you or someone you love is seeking a safe, secure, and compassionate resource for alcoholism treatment, We Level Up NJ treatment center is here for you.  Call us and speak with an addiction counselor today about our levels of care and how to avoid alcoholic hepatitis.

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[1,3] Alcoholic Hepatitis – The Johns Hopkins University
[2,5] Alcoholic Hepatitis – National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine
[4] Alcohol-related liver disease – NHS National Health Service UK