NEW DELHI: The liver is a powerful organ that performs many complex functions for the normal functioning of the body. It is a vital organ of the body without which a person cannot survive; therefore, it is essential to keep him healthy and happy through a holistic approach.
Alcohol consumption is one of the lifestyle habits that contributes to chronic liver disease. One of the main causes of liver damage, known as alcohol-related liver disease, is alcohol consumption (ARLD). Years of alcohol abuse can cause liver inflammation and swelling. This damage can also lead to scarring, called cirrhosis, the final stage of liver disease.
Therefore, being aware of how much and how often one drinks alcohol is crucial in determining whether and to what extent our drinking has caused harm.
According to Drinkaware, alcohol-related fatty liver disease develops in 90% of people who consume more than 40g of alcohol, or four units, per day. According to the organization, that’s roughly the equivalent of two medium glasses (175ml) of 12% ABV (alcohol by volume) wine or less than two pints of regular beer (4% ABV).
One of the functions of our liver is to break down potentially toxic substances like alcohol. When we drink, various enzymes in our liver work to break down alcohol and help it leave our bodies. However, drinking more than our liver can handle can damage the liver. This initially manifests as an increase in fat in our liver, but this can eventually lead to inflammation and a buildup of scar tissue.
Although the liver can regenerate itself, some liver cells die each time it filters alcohol. The liver can regenerate new cells, but chronic alcohol abuse can reduce its ability to regenerate over time. This can cause serious and permanent liver damage. Reducing the amount to zero can help reverse the damage and reduce the risk of disease progression.
Besides excessive alcohol consumption, being overweight or obese and a pre-existing liver condition, such as hepatitis C, are all risk factors for developing ARLD. Women seem to be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol than men. Alcoholism and alcohol treatment problems often run in families, so genetics are also important.
ARLD usually does not cause symptoms until the liver has been severely damaged. Therefore, it is recommended to include preventive screening tests for liver damage in routine health checkups, especially for people who regularly consume alcohol. Standard screening tests include a complete blood count (CBC), liver function test which includes liver enzyme test, abdominal computed tomography (CT), abdominal ultrasound, and liver biopsy.
If symptoms are present or at a later stage, they can include liver swelling, which can cause discomfort in the upper right side of our abdomen. Symptoms of ARLD include fatigue, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Yellowing of the eyes and skin may also occur, as well as swelling of the ankles. A damaged liver can also cause confusion, drowsiness, and blood in our vomit or stool.