Alcohol’s ability to cause liver damage is fairly well known. But the details of what happens when you abuse alcohol, and how you may be able to reverse this harm, aren’t as widely understood. In today’s post, we look at signs of liver damage from alcohol as well as signs your liver is healing from alcohol.
How Does Alcohol Damage the Liver?
Among its many essential functions, the liver is responsible for removing toxins from the blood. This role includes breaking down alcohol and other substances so that they can be safely eliminated from the body.
When a person drinks moderately and infrequently, filtering alcohol from the blood isn’t particularly harmful to the liver. But those who regularly drink to excess can be inflicting considerable harm on this vital organ. Here are a few examples of how alcohol can damage the liver:
- Each time the liver processes alcohol, some liver cells die. The liver then regenerates new cells to take their place.
- Continued exposure to large amounts of alcohol can erode the liver’s ability to regenerate new cells, which can lead to diminished functioning.
- Enzymes in the liver initially convert alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde. This is an extremely dangerous substance that has been identified as a carcinogen.
- In a healthy liver, the acetaldehyde is quickly converted to acetate, which is then broken down into carbon dioxide and water.
- In an unhealthy liver, this second stage of alcohol metabolism may be compromised, which can lead to a buildup of acetaldehyde.
- Repeated exposure to alcohol can also cause a buildup of fat in the liver. If this buildup is not reversed, it will cause tissue damage, scarring, and eventually a serious condition known as cirrhosis.
What are the Early Signs of Liver Damage from Alcohol Abuse?
For most people who abuse alcohol, the first type of liver damage they experience is fatty liver. Unfortunately, by the time the signs of this condition become apparent, considerable damage may have already occurred.
The following symptoms could be early signs of liver damage from alcohol abuse:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss
- Exhaustion and muscle weakness
- Redness in the palms of the hands
If the signs of liver damage from alcohol abuse are undetected, or if the individual refuses to get appropriate help, the harm can become increasingly worse. Signs of more extensive damage can include:
- Vomiting blood
- Blood in the stool or urine
- Tenderness near the liver
- Persistent itchiness
- Swelling in the legs
- Jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Respiratory distress
Can Your Liver Heal from Long-Term Alcohol Abuse?
It is not an overstatement to note that liver damage from alcohol abuse can be devastating.
For example, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has reported that cirrhosis of the liver caused more than 47,900 deaths in the U.S. in 2019. More than half of these cirrhosis cases were the result of alcohol abuse.
The NIAAA also noted that cirrhosis is responsible for about 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S., with cirrhosis due to alcohol abuse accounting for about 7.3 deaths per 100,000.
Thankfully, not all alcohol-related liver damage is irreversible. If you recognize the signs early enough and take appropriate action, your liver can begin to heal from the effects of long-term alcohol abuse.
How Can You Heal Your Liver?
The most important step you can take to begin healing your liver is to stop drinking. For someone who has become dependent on alcohol, this may not be easy, but it is both necessary and possible. With effective professional care, even people who have developed a severe addiction to alcohol can end their abuse of this dangerous substance and adopt a healthier, alcohol-free lifestyle.
In addition to no longer drinking, other steps to heal your liver can include:
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- Following a nutritious diet
- Exercising regularly
- Taking certain prescription medications
Signs Your Liver is Healing From Alcohol
There are no guarantees that an alcohol-damaged liver will return to full health. But when you stop drinking, consult with your doctor, and follow their advice, you put yourself in the best possible position for positive outcomes.
Here are some signs that your liver has begun to heal from the negative effects of alcohol abuse:
- Your mental confusion has begun to clear up.
- Your energy levels and strength have increased.
- Your skin and eyes have returned to their original colors.
- Your swelling and abdominal pain have subsided.
- You once again have a healthy appetite.
Contact Our Alcohol Abuse Treatment Center at Renewal Health Group in Los Angeles, CA
Don’t wait until you have incurred serious liver damage from alcohol abuse before you get professional help. The moment you realize that drinking alcohol has transformed from an optional behavior into a compulsion, it’s time to seek treatment. The sooner you get help, the more likely you will be to avoid irreversible harm.
Renewal Health Group is a trusted source of life-affirming addiction treatment for adults in the Los Angeles, California, area. Our programming includes a full continuum of care at convenient locations in southern California. In every program and at every location, you can expect to receive personalized service and comprehensive support from a team of highly skilled treatment professionals.
With our help, you can end your alcohol abuse and start living the healthier life that you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.