Alcoholic hepatitis

Overview

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. It results in liver cell damage and destruction.

Alcoholic hepatitis is a complex problem and can lead to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. If someone develops alcoholic hepatitis and stops drinking, the inflammation is often reversible over time. However, if someone already has cirrhosis, the liver disease can progress rapidly to liver failure.

Symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently.

Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal tenderness or pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds 
  • Spider-like blood vessels in the skin
  • Ascites - fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity
  • Poor appetite
  • Jaundice - yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Dry mouth and feeling very thirsty 
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling ill

Diagnosis

In addition to complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for alcoholic hepatitis may include the following:

  • Specific lab blood tests, such as the following:
    • Liver function studies
    • Blood cell counts
    • Bleeding times
    • Electrolyte tests
    • Tests for other chemicals in the body
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) – This imaging procedure combines X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – MRI is a diagnostic procedure that combines large magnets, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. The person lies on a bed that moves into the cylindrical MRI machine. The machine takes a series of pictures of the inside of the body using a magnetic field and radio waves. The computer enhances the pictures produced. The test is painless, and does not involve exposure to radiation.
  • Liver biopsy – A procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope.

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