Alcoholic hepatitis is liver inflammation caused by drinking alcohol. This inflammation decreases the liver’s ability to function normally.
What are the causes?
Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by heavy drinking.
What increases the risk?
You may have an increased risk of alcoholic hepatitis if:
- You drink large amounts of alcohol.
- You have been drinking heavily for years.
- You binge drink.
- You are female.
- You are obese.
- You have had infectious hepatitis.
- You are malnourished.
- You have close family members who have had alcoholic hepatitis.
What are the signs or symptoms?
- Abdominal pain.
- A swollen abdomen.
- Loss of appetite.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Dry mouth.
- Severe thirst.
- A yellow tone to the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice).
- Spidery veins, especially across the skin of the abdomen.
- Unusual bleeding.
- Trouble thinking clearly.
- Memory problems.
- Mood changes.
- Numbness and tingling in the feet and legs.
How is this diagnosed?
Alcoholic hepatitis is diagnosed with blood tests that show problems with liver function.
Additional tests may also be done, such as:
- An ultrasound.
- A CT scan.
- An MRI scan.
- A liver biopsy. For this test, a small sample of the liver will be taken and examined for evidence of liver damage.
How is this treated?
The most important step you can take to treat alcoholic hepatitis is to stop drinking alcohol.
If you are addicted to alcohol, your health care provider will help you create a plan to quit.
It may involve:
- Taking medicine to decrease withdrawal symptoms.
- Entering a program to help you stop drinking.
- Joining a support group.
Additional treatment for alcoholic hepatitis may include:
- Medicines such as steroids. The medicines will help decrease the inflammation.
- Your health care provider might ask you to undergo nutritional counseling and follow a diet. You may also need to take dietary supplements and vitamins.
- A liver transplant. This procedure is performed in very severe cases. It is only performed on people who have totally stopped drinking and can commit to never drinking alcohol again.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Do not drink alcohol.
- Do not use medicines or eat foods that contain alcohol.
- Take medicines only as directed by your health care provider.
- Follow dietary instructions carefully.
- Keep all follow-up visits as directed by your health care provider. This is important.
Contact a health care provider if:
- You have a fever.
- You do not have your usual appetite.
- You have flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, or muscle aches.
- You feel nauseous or vomit.
- You bruise easily.
- Your urine is very dark.
- You have new abdominal pain.
Get help right away if:
- There is blood in your vomit.
- You develop jaundice.
- Your skin itches severely.
- Your legs swell.
- Your stomach appears bloated.
- You have black, tarry-appearing stools.
- You bleed easily.
- You are confused or not thinking clearly.
- You have a seizure.