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3 Types of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

Learn about the three types of alcohol-related liver disease in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.


People often wonder about the medical effects of chronic alcohol use, particularly the effects on the liver. There's really three types of liver disease that can result from heavy alcohol use.

The mildest form is called fatty liver disease. In that case, what happens with the chronic alcohol use is that the liver develops fatty cells that replace the healthier cells. And those fatty cells don't process the alcohol and other things that the liver processes. So your liver slows down in its ability to process.

The next form of alcohol related liver disease is alcohol related hepatitis. And that's where the liver becomes inflamed chronically and often enlarged. And, again, it's not functioning at its full capacity. Alcohol hepatitis, in its mildest forms, can be reversed when you stop drinking. In its more severe forms, it cannot be reversed and becomes a chronic illness. Often people experience chronic nausea and other symptoms that really interfere with their lives.

The most serious form of alcohol related liver disease is liver cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis is where the liver actually develops hard scar tissue that replaces the healthy liver tissue. So over time, if one keeps drinking, that more and more scar tissue develops resulting eventually in liver failure. And the need for a liver transplant.

So those are the three types of liver disease that can result from serious alcohol use.

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