The only cause of alcohol-related fatty liver disease is alcohol. This is obvious to medical experts because those who drink more than two to three drinks daily for long periods of time will often have fatty liver disease – and the fatty liver disease may disappear when the person gives up alcohol.
There are usually no symptoms with alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, some people do experience fatigue, pain in the liver area of the abdomen, and weakness. The cells of the liver are storing large amounts of fat in the form of triglycerides.
Alcohol-related fatty liver disease is not the only liver problem caused by alcohol. Hepatitis can also result. Hepatitis means that the liver cells become inflamed. In fact, in hepatitis, you’ll find the same fat deposition in the liver cells along with inflammation and scarring of the liver. The symptoms worsen with hepatitis and there may be nausea and vomiting, fever and the patient may lose his appetite. His or her skin may also turn yellow because of jaundice.
Alcoholic hepatitis can progress to a severe health condition that results in a quick death. However, it can also be a condition that is reversed. Diet plays a big part in how well the person recovers.
Alcoholic cirrhosis is one additional health problem that is brought on by drinking alcohol. Cirrhosis is the worst because of the scarring in the liver. With scarring, regular liver tissue is replaced with hard, fibrotic tissue that has lost its function. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to reverse scarring.
When liver conditions progress to the cirrhosis state, there’s edema – swelling – in the abdomen as well as the veins in the abdomen enlarging, called caput medusa because the veins are visible underneath the skin and look like a twisted body of a snake. The condition can progress to kidney failure, coma and death.
If an alcholic shows fatty liver disease, it can then progress to hepatitis and then cirrhosis. It’s not true that fatty liver disease will always progress in this fashion, and sometimes patients who drink a lot of alcohol have hepatitis but not the cirrhosis. One thing is certain though: continuing to drink alcohol will worsen the condition.