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Signs Of Liver Damage From Alcohol

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John had his first drink in high school, and his alcohol consumption only ramped up once he entered college. After he graduated, he would go out drinking regularly with friends. That habit then ended up turning into drinking at home, and now, John is drunk most nights, despite his wife’s wishes for him to stop. These days, he’s experiencing stomach pain and nausea often, and is more lethargic than he used to be. His skin and eyes are even starting to look a little yellow. What’s going on with John?

It’s hard to know for sure without a doctor’s visit, but John may be experiencing liver damage due to alcohol use. If you’re John’s wife, or in a situation similar to her, this is an incredibly worrying prospect. Anyone concerned should know Less than 15 people out of every 100,000 people living in Orange County died of liver damage in 2021. While even one death is too many, liver damage usually isn’t fatal. Anyone living with potential liver damage from alcohol use can take steps to heal their liver.

The most important step, and sometimes the most difficult, is stopping alcohol consumption so the liver can heal. If you’re someone with an alcohol use disorder, even if you want to prevent liver damage, it may feel like you can’t stop drinking. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand where you’re coming from. We also know that substance use disorders don’t just pop up out of nowhere; there’s often a coinciding mental health condition. That’s why we focus on helping our clients heal from trauma and their substance use disorders.

Seeking help for a substance use disorder is always a great step to take, but it’s also important to educate yourself on the signs of liver damage from alcohol. That way, you’ll know exactly what kind of medical care you need to seek out. Read on for all the information you’ll need to know.

Alcohol Use Disorder’s Dangerous Impact on Your Body

Alcohol Use Disorder’s Dangerous Impact on Your Body

Alcohol use disorder, sometimes referred to as “alcoholism”, has a huge impact on the body. It can lead to many problems, including but not limited to mental health conditions, high blood pressure, cancer, a weakened immune system, stroke, and of course, liver disease.

How Does the Body Process Alcohol? The Importance of the Liver

The liver is responsible for breaking down everything in your blood. Nutrients from your stomach and digestive system travel to the liver, which then breaks them down into something easier for the rest of your body to use, but it also does this with “toxic” substances in the blood. This includes drugs and alcohol. The “waste” substances get turned into bile, which helps break down fatty substances in your body before it’s excreted. 

How Dangerous Can Too Much Alcohol Really Be for the Liver?

While alcohol in moderation is perfectly safe, too much alcohol can cause liver damage, which, if left unchecked, can cause liver failure and death. 

Liver Damage in Action: The Stages of Alcoholic Liver Damage

There are multiple stages of liver damage, and many people with alcohol use disorder experience at least one of these, if not multiple.

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 

Sometimes, binge drinking, even just for a few days, can cause a build up of fat in liver cells. This type of liver damage is the most common, and rarely comes with symptoms. That doesn’t mean you should ignore it, though. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is an important sign that the way you use alcohol is harmful. Thankfully, alcoholic fatty liver disease is completely reversible with abstinence from alcohol. 

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis usually occurs with alcohol misuse over a long period of time, though in rare cases, it can be caused by severe binge drinking in a short amount of time. Alcoholic hepatitis is when your liver becomes inflamed. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to fight injury or illness, and this is the liver’s attempt to “heal” itself from the excess of alcohol pumping through it. This stage is also reversible if caught soon enough, but it can also cause permanent scarring.

Alcoholic Fibrosis 

Fibrosis happens when the scarring created through inflammation (hepatitis) builds up. It makes the liver stiffer, so it’s hard for blood, oxygen, and nutrients to pass through it. Liver cells can regenerate, so it’s possible to recover from some degree of fibrosis if you stop drinking altogether.

Alcoholic Cirrhosis 

This is when liver scarring becomes permanent. The regular liver tissue, now replaced by scar tissue, stops regenerating. That being said, it’s possible to slow or stop liver cirrhosis, even if it’s no longer reversible. Your body will naturally learn to compensate for decreased liver function to some degree. If unaddressed, however, cirrhosis can progress to liver failure, which is fatal without a liver transplant.

How Is Liver Damage Detected?

Sometimes, you may experience liver damage without any symptoms. Fatty liver, for example, often doesn’t have symptoms. It’s impossible to confirm you have liver damage without visiting a doctor, and even then, it can be difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone. That being said, a doctor will still provide a physical exam for you, where they’ll search for physical signs of potential liver damage, such as red veins on the skin, yellow eyes or skin (jaundice), swollen abdomen, and/or reddened palms. If they suspect liver damage, they’ll likely perform additional testing, such as:

  • Blood tests, which can show liver function
  • Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan
  • Liver biopsy, which involves removing a small amount of your liver tissue for lab testing
What to do if I have liver damage from alcohol use

What Do I Do if I Have Liver Damage From Alcohol Use?

If any of the previously mentioned tests confirm you have liver damage, your next move will be changing your lifestyle to promote your liver’s recovery. No matter what those steps are, they will definitely include decreasing your alcohol intake. If you have an alcohol use disorder, this probably seems like a daunting task. The good news is, you don’t have to deal with quitting drinking on your own. Rely on the people around you for support, and consider seeking out professional treatment for alcohol use disorder.

Are you ready to take steps to conquer your alcohol use disorder? At Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, we treat our clients like people—not numbers. Our small facility ensures you receive the personalized care you need from our dedicated medical professionals, all while welcoming you into a community of people who are committed to achieving sobriety. Make today the day you start your recovery journey, and call us at 949-426-7962.


What are the first signs of liver damage from alcohol?

Sometimes there are no symptoms, but early signs of liver damage may include fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea, weakness and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Will my liver heal if I quit drinking?

If your liver damage hasn’t progressed to cirrhosis, it’s possible for your liver to heal.

Can alcoholic liver damage be reversed?

Yes. The liver can regenerate, so if you stop drinking alcohol, in time, your liver will heal and return to full function.

How long does it take to get liver damage from drinking?

It depends on each person, but even a few days of heavy drinking can be enough for someone to develop alcoholic fatty liver disease. More serious forms of liver damage tend to occur after years of heavy drinking, with studies showing 10+ years of heavy drinking almost always results in some kind of liver damage.


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