September 13, 2019
According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 140.6 million people aged 12 years and above were current users of alcohol. Chronic abusers of alcohol are at an increased risk of developing cirrhosis, a life-threatening condition in which liver function is impaired. The symptoms of cirrhosis are caused by a buildup of scar tissue in the damaged liver. As the liver receives continuous injuries, it attempts to heal itself, but the large number of scars hinders its ability to heal or function. The liver is responsible for many important functions in the human body such as the production of bile, an essential fluid that helps absorb dietary fats, cholesterol and vitamins, and blood purification. With advanced cirrhosis, liver function can halt completely, resulting in multiple organ failure and death.
People who suffer from alcohol dependence should remain constantly vigilant for signs and symptoms of cirrhosis. When dealing with something as all-consuming as an addiction, it can be difficult to notice new physical symptoms. Cirrhosis is not curable, but early treatment can be critical in reducing symptoms and lowering the risk of death. Less damaging liver disorders that often precede cirrhosis, such as a fatty liver, can be reversed.
Symptoms of cirrhosis
Symptoms of cirrhosis include but are not limited to:
It is important to understand that early stages of cirrhosis may have no symptoms at all. For this reason, people suffering from alcohol addiction should undertake regular blood tests. Liver damage can be observed in most routine blood tests. Even without outward symptoms, excess levels of bilirubin or other enzymes can indicate liver damage. Cirrhosis can also be diagnosed with CT scans, ultrasounds, or with a specialized procedure called a radioisotope scan. The physical structure of the liver can be inspected through a laparoscope, a viewing device that is inserted into a small incision in the abdomen. Disease severity can be determined with a liver biopsy and a fibroscan.
The first step to treating cirrhosis may be frightening for someone dealing with alcohol addiction as they must stop drinking. Leaving cirrhosis untreated can cause a number of dangerous complications. Variceal bleeding occurs when the excess of scar tissue in the liver blocks blood flow, leading to severe internal hemorrhaging. Cirrhosis can also cause profound mental or behavioral changes, a condition called hepatic encephalopathy. Because the liver is no longer able to purify blood, toxins flood the central nervous system (CNS), leading to confusion, slowed thinking, or even coma.
Along with abstinence from alcohol, people with cirrhosis may be required to reduce levels of salt in their diet and take diuretics to prevent fluid buildup. Infections are another potential complication of cirrhosis meaning the patient may be prescribed antibiotics. Maintaining an overall healthy diet will prevent the malnutrition that accompanies liver dysfunction. The most important thing a person with cirrhosis should do, however, is stop drinking — even the healthiest diet and medication combination would mean nothing if they do not take that first step.
Recovering from alcohol addiction
Cirrhosis can be stopped in its track if a person decides to overcome their addiction to quit alcohol. However, it is easier said than done. The first step to conquer an addiction is to get associated with a rehab that provides detoxification, addiction treatment, and counseling.
If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol and is looking for detox treatment centers, get in touch with Invictus Health Group. Call our 24/7 helpline 866-548-0190 or chat online with one of our experts to know more about our research-backed, customized alcohol detox and rehab programs. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.