What is alcoholic hepatitis?

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis: Overview

Alcoholic hepatitis is damage to the liver. It is caused by long-term heavy drinking. The liver gets inflamed and swollen. Then the liver can't remove waste products from the body.

This condition can lead to permanent scarring in the liver. This scarring is called cirrhosis. If drinking is stopped before the liver is severely damaged, your liver may get better. You may have to make changes in your diet and adjust your medicines.

What are the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis?

You might have a fever or belly pain. Your belly might be bloated. Your eyes and skin may look yellow (jaundice). Or you might feel tired or sick, vomit, or not want to eat. This can cause weight loss. You might feel confused. Some people with this condition don't have any symptoms.

How is alcoholic hepatitis treated?

You may be treated with extra fluids, vitamins, and minerals. You will need to focus on eating healthy foods. You will also need to stop drinking alcohol. You may need to take medicine.

How is alcoholic hepatitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will order blood tests to check for inflammation in the liver. The tests will also show how well your liver is working. An ultrasound, X-ray, CT scan, or MRI may be done. Your doctor may also take a tiny sample of liver tissue (biopsy).

How can you care for alcoholic hepatitis?

  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can damage the liver. Tell your doctor if you need help to quit. Counseling and support groups can help you stay sober. Sometimes medicines can help too.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter medicines, including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol), unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Make sure your doctor knows all of the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about your diet. See a dietitian if you need help choosing the right foods.

What is alcoholic hepatitis?

Alcoholic hepatitis is a condition that damages the liver. It happens when long-term heavy drinking makes the liver swollen and inflamed. Over time, this harms the liver and can lead to scarring. The scarring is called cirrhosis. An inflamed or scarred liver can't remove waste products. Toxins can build up in the body.

What causes alcoholic hepatitis?

Drinking too much alcohol, especially over a long period of time, can cause alcoholic hepatitis.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You feel very sleepy or confused.
  • You have a fever.
  • There is a new or increasing yellow tint to your skin or the whites of your eyes.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You have any abnormal bleeding, such as:
    • Nosebleeds.
    • Vaginal bleeding that is different (heavier, more frequent, at a different time of the month) than what you are used to.
    • Bloody or black stools, or rectal bleeding.
    • Bloody or pink urine.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have any problems.
  • Your belly is getting bigger.
  • You are gaining weight.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.