The chronic use of alcohol can lead to damage to vital organs including the liver. Complicating matters is the exponentially destructive nature of alcoholism in perpetuating its own use despite associated risks of social isolation, loss of a career, and financial ruin. The alcohol-addicted person faces an equally uphill climb away from the negative physical impact of alcohol on the body, especially on the liver. And this journey may only begin once the user has stopped drinking.
Of the many ways in which alcohol continuously negatively affects the human body, cirrhosis of the liver poses not only an immediate threat, but may also cause other detrimental health effects, including increased risk of death. The liver is a vital organ and its use in removing toxins from the body, puts it in peril when someone consumes too much alcohol. Chronic alcohol use can damage the liver to the point of requiring a transplant or necessitate permanent medical intervention to function.
Every person’s experience with alcoholism, as well as cirrhosis will differ. In the end, the body’s reactions and its ability to better fend off the disease will be determined—across the board—by how well you maintain sobriety. As you find yourself enmeshed within the stronghold of cirrhosis, coming to terms with having to give drinking up can be the difference between sustaining your life or succumbing to the disease.
The liver has many functions that aid in maintaining good physical health. It aids digestion, helps the body store glucose, breaks down saturated fats, stores nutrients, and produces the blood proteins needed in things like clotting and immune system support. Lastly, the liver filters out substances that are detrimental to the body. These substances are toxins such as drugs and alcohol.
If the liver malfunctions, it can lead to many serious illnesses and even lower immune system function, which can promote dangerous risks, such as contraction of life-threatening diseases. With more than 100 types of liver disease and malfunctions, it is no wonder that cirrhosis of the liver has the 12th highest rate of death by disease.
Stages Of Cirrhosis
Alcohol consumption and cirrhosis are commonly associated. Liver toxicity, due to sustained alcohol consumption eventually leads to cell death and the hardening of the liver tissue known as cirrhosis. This condition can lead to liver failure.
Signs of a failing liver include a yellowing of the skin (jaundice), bruising, swelling, fatigue, confusion, and loss of appetite. These signs usually only appear with any severity in the later stages of liver disease and require immediate medical attention.
There are four stages to cirrhosis of the liver.
Swelling and inflammation due to the initial breakdown of liver tissues and immune cells. Fluid retention occurs as ducts and regulatory areas, like arteries, do not provide for normal blood flow.
As symptoms of fluid retention and swelling increase, the inflammation is more pronounced. By this time, fibrosis (or a hardening of the liver tissue) is setting in. Fibrosis is the occurrence of scar tissue in lieu of healthy liver tissues. There are less noticeable symptoms during this stage as the remaining tissue cells will still be at work while the malfunctioning cells, now turning into hardened and useless scar tissue, will never function again. Dead tissue cannot be revived and can lead quickly to total liver failure.
The third stage of cirrhosis can be associated with what is referred to as “bridging fibrosis.” Unnatural connections between arteries, veins, and other vessels at this time are created, forming bridges that encourage abnormal blood flow and pressure in the liver. The pressure is a type of hypertension that increases with the disease, becoming worse over time.
The gravest of cirrhosis stages, the fourth stage is characterized by extreme malfunction of the liver. At this point many symptoms are present and noticeable by the sufferer. He or she may find themselves in a constant strain of digestive issues, edema, and insatiable skin itching. Jaundice, mental confusion, and sleeplessness persist in most, while others also notice the highest point of fluid retention and difficulty with normal functions, such as speech.
Cirrhosis And Alcoholism
Alcoholism and cirrhosis are closely associated. This is because alcoholism-induced cirrhosis is a major cause of death in the US and many other nations. Other alcohol induced diseases occur, such as fatty liver, which have a tendency to lead to cirrhosis. Between 10 and 15% of those suffering from alcoholism will get cirrhosis of the liver. For those in last-stage cirrhosis, as few as 35% will survive if they continue drinking, compared with 60% if they stop. Earlier-stage sufferers have a 70% survival rate, but only if they discontinue all alcohol use.
For those who are experiencing a consistent need to consume alcohol, if only to physically avoid withdrawal, chances are more likely that their alcohol problem is an addiction. Withdrawal indicates the body’s desire for a substance and subsequent dependency on said substance. Under the pressure of addiction, an alcohol user may find themselves feeling more and more ill as years pass. Their tolerance continues to go up and dependency is clear as the more they drink, the more they need and the more they need, the more they abuse, and the worse they feel leads right back to the beginning.
Habit and emotional ties to alcohol can play a pivotal role in continued use of the drug as well rates of relapse. Sobriety does not mean the end of cravings (though these will decrease in severity and frequency over time). When someone relies on alcohol for emotional support, the complication of a disease like cirrhosis can create powerful cravings for the drug, despite the detriment.
Someone developing cirrhosis of the liver may not necessarily be addicted to alcohol. Any sustained level of excessive drinking can lead to the disease.
Help For Addiction
If you are currently drinking while facing the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver, rehabilitation may be medically necessitated. This rehabilitation can come in many forms and is an integral part of reversing at least some of the damage done. It can also prevent further damage and liver failure.
There are many options for an individual facing an addiction to alcohol. With therapies ranging from privatized, intensive outpatient therapy, to cognitive group therapy, as well as inpatient residential centers—commonly offering anywhere from one week to 120 days or more— treatment for addiction to alcohol is becoming more individualized with improved overall success rates.
Care For Cirrhosis
Depending on the stage of cirrhosis, and in addition to achieving sobriety, symptoms of the disease reduced through dietary changes and medications to reduce bloating or other discomforts.
While lifestyle changes and medications may relieve symptoms of the disease in its opening stages, treating advanced Cirrhosis often requires a liver transplant, as the functioning tissues of the organ will no longer work and cannot be healed. To be considered for a liver transplant, an individual must be committed to sobriety.
Getting Assistance And Keeping Healthy
Treatment for your addiction and cirrhosis is vital to your overall health and well-being. Risking progressing through the stages of either disease will only make recovery more difficult as time passes. Remember that in healing the damage done to your liver or keeping the healthy parts functioning, you must remove alcohol consumption from your life.
For information on healthy ways to get back on track in life, please contact us at AlcoholTreatment.net today.