Alcoholic hepatitis

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The liver is your largest internal organ. About the size of a football, it’s located mainly in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above your stomach.

Alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by drinking alcohol.

Alcoholic hepatitis is most likely to occur in people who drink heavily over many years. However, the relationship between drinking and alcoholic hepatitis is complex. Not all heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis, and the disease can occur in people who drink only moderately.

If you’re diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis, you must stop drinking alcohol. People who continue to drink alcohol face a high risk of serious liver damage and death.

The most common sign of alcoholic hepatitis is yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice).

Other signs and symptoms include:

Malnutrition is common in people with alcoholic hepatitis. Drinking large amounts of alcohol suppresses the appetite, and heavy drinkers get most of their calories from alcohol.

Additional signs and symptoms that occur with severe alcoholic hepatitis include:

Alcoholic hepatitis is a serious, often deadly disease.

See your doctor if you:

Alcoholic hepatitis develops when the alcohol you drink damages your liver. Just how alcohol damages the liver — and why it does so only in some heavy drinkers — isn’t clear.

These factors are known to play a role in alcoholic hepatitis:

Other factors that can contribute to alcoholic hepatitis include:

The major risk factor for alcoholic hepatitis is the amount of alcohol you consume. How much alcohol it takes to put you at risk of alcoholic hepatitis isn’t known. But most people with the condition have a history of drinking more than 3.5 ounces (100 grams) — equivalent to seven glasses of wine, seven beers or seven shots of spirits — daily for at least 20 years.

However, alcoholic hepatitis can occur among those who drink less and have other risk factors.

Other risk factors include:

Esophageal varices are enlarged veins in the lower esophagus. They’re often due to obstructed blood flow through the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestine and spleen to the liver.

A normal liver (left) shows no signs of scarring. In cirrhosis (right), scar tissue replaces normal liver tissue.

Complications of alcoholic hepatitis, which result from severe liver damage, relate to scar tissue. Scar tissue can slow blood flow through your liver, increasing pressure in a major blood vessel (portal vein), and the buildup of toxins. Complications include:

You might reduce your risk of alcoholic hepatitis if you:

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Alcoholic hepatitis

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