April 18, 2024

Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

image representing alcoholic liver cirrhosis

Cirrhosis involves irreversible scarring that impairs the liver’s ability to function properly, potentially leading to liver failure. This condition emerges from continuous liver damage over an extended period. The primary contributors to cirrhosis include alcohol and drug use, viral infections, and metabolic issues.

What Is Liver Cirrhosis from Alcohol?

Cirrhosis represents extensive scarring of the liver, a severe outcome stemming from various liver diseases and conditions like hepatitis or sustained and excessive alcohol abuse..

Each instance of liver damage — whether from overindulgence in alcohol or another source like an infection — initiates the liver’s self-repair mechanisms, which unfortunately also results in the formation of scar tissue. As cirrhosis progresses, an increasing amount of scar tissue accumulates, hindering the liver’s functionality. In its advanced stages, cirrhosis can be life-threatening.

While the liver damage inflicted by cirrhosis is largely irreversible, early diagnosis and treatment of its root cause can prevent further harm. In some rare cases, this may lead to a reversal of the condition. Research in this area is ongoing.

Signs of Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis

The progression of cirrhosis brings about a spectrum of symptoms, initially subtle and often indistinguishable from those of other conditions, advancing to more distinct signs as liver functionality wanes.

Initially, cirrhosis may manifest through non-specific symptoms or, in some cases, remain asymptomatic. As the condition advances, the symptoms become more pronounced, indicating decreased liver function or complications such as portal hypertension, caused by the compression of the portal vein by scar tissue in the liver.

In the initial stages, cirrhosis might present symptoms such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • General weakness
  • Pain in upper abdomen
  • Spider angiomas (visible blood vessels)
  • Redness in palms
image of people discussing alcoholic liver cirrhosis symptoms

Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis Symptoms

As liver function continues to decline, symptoms related to this decrease and portal hypertension become more evident. Symptoms indicating reduced liver functionality include:

  • Jaundice
  • Pruritus (itchy skin without a rash)
  • Paler urine
  • Darker stools
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatty deposits on skin or eyelids
  • Unintentional weight and muscle loss
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Mood swings
  • Twitching
  • Tremors
  • Disruption in menstrual cycles

Symptoms specific to portal hypertension include:

  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Edema
  • Blood in vomit or stools
  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Reduced urine output
  • Breathing difficulties stemming from chronic respiratory failure

These varied symptoms illustrate the importance of early detection and treatment of cirrhosis to manage and potentially mitigate its progression.

Treatment for Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis

The approach to treating cirrhosis hinges on both the cause and the severity of the liver damage. The primary aims of treatment are to stop the advancement of scar tissue within the liver and to manage or prevent the symptoms and complications associated with cirrhosis. Severe cases may call for hospitalization.

In its early stages, mitigating liver damage might be achievable by addressing the root causes of cirrhosis:

  • Alcohol addiction treatment: For cirrhosis induced by alcohol, discontinuation is essential. Healthcare providers may recommend addiction treatment programs for individuals struggling to stop alcohol consumption, as any alcohol intake is harmful to the liver.
  • Weight management: For those with cirrhosis due to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, weight loss and blood sugar control can improve health.
  • Hepatitis medication: For hepatitis B or C, specific treatments can prevent further liver cell damage.
  • Managing other causes and symptoms: Early diagnosis and treatment of conditions like primary biliary cholangitis can slow cirrhosis progression. Other medications may alleviate symptoms like itching, fatigue, and pain, while nutritional supplements can address malnutrition and prevent osteoporosis.

Treating complications involves:

  • Fluid accumulation: A low-sodium diet and medications can manage fluid build-up. Advanced cases might require procedural intervention.
  • Portal hypertension: Blood pressure medications may help manage vein pressure in the liver, with regular endoscopies to monitor for varices, which may require band ligation or a TIPS procedure to prevent bleeding.
  • Infections: Treatment may include antibiotics and vaccinations against influenza, pneumonia, and hepatitis to prevent infections.
  • Liver cancer risk: Regular screenings for liver cancer through blood tests and ultrasounds.
  • Hepatic encephalopathy: Medications to reduce blood toxin levels due to impaired liver function.

For advanced cirrhosis, where the liver fails to function, a liver transplant might be the only remaining option. This involves replacing the diseased liver with a healthy one from either a deceased or a living donor. Cirrhosis is a leading cause for transplants, with candidates undergoing thorough evaluations to ensure a successful outcome. Recent findings indicate that individuals with alcoholic cirrhosis, previously considered high-risk for post-transplant relapse into harmful drinking, can achieve survival rates post-transplant comparable to recipients with other liver diseases, provided they are carefully selected.

image of gratitude lodge | alcoholic liver cirrhosis symptoms

Get Treatment for Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis at Gratitude Lodge

Liver cirrhosis, like alcoholism, unfolds over several stages. The earlier you seek treatment, the less complicated your recovery will be. Reach out to Gratitude Lodge and access compassionate and effective inpatient treatment for alcoholism.

You can begin by tackling alcohol dependence under close medical supervision. Alcohol detox lasts about one week and prepares you for ongoing inpatient treatment once you’ve overcome physical dependence on alcohol.

The unique presentation of all alcohol addictions means that treatment at Gratitude Lodge is personalized. Expect to engage with the following therapies at our rehabs in Long Beach and Newport Beach, CA:

Call 800-994-2184 today and begin your recovery from alcohol addiction right away.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

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