Alcoholic Hepatitis

Your liver has a lot of jobs. One of them is breaking down alcohol. Drinking too much over a long time may cause a lot of different health problems. One of those problems is a disease called alcoholic hepatitis.

If you have hepatitis, it means your liver is inflamed. Alcoholic hepatitis damages and destroys liver cells. If you have alcoholic hepatitis and stop drinking, the inflammation may go away over time. If you continue to drink, alcoholic hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis. This is permanent scarring of the liver. It cannot be reversed. It causes the liver to not work properly. In severe cases, it can cause death.


The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis may not appear until the disease is severe. The symptoms may seem like other medical problems, so it is important to see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

At first, alcoholic hepatitis may feel a lot like the flu. You may have fever and tiredness. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. You may have a rash, joint pains, and dry mouth or feel very thirsty.

You may have yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes. This is called jaundice. This is a sign of liver damage. It is caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a substance left over after red blood cells break down. If your liver is damaged, bilirubin can leak out of your liver into your bloodstream, causing jaundice and making your urine dark in color. Too much bilirubin can also lead to other symptoms, such as pale or clay-colored stools, and itching of the skin.

The symptoms of severe alcoholic hepatitis include high fever, an enlarged liver, confusion, and coma.


Diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical exam. In most cases, there will be a history of heavy drinking.

Blood tests may be done. You may need a C-T scan or an M-R-I.

Sometimes a liver biopsy is also done. During a biopsy, a sample of your liver tissue is taken and checked under a microscope.


There is no medicine to cure alcoholic hepatitis. The goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms and stop the disease from getting worse. In some cases, the liver may heal. It may take weeks or months for the liver to heal. Sometimes, the liver can’t fully heal. The key is to stop drinking alcohol. It is important to work with an alcohol treatment program.

Many people with alcoholic hepatitis have poor nutrition. It’s important to follow your provider’s orders concerning your diet. You may be told to eat foods need high in calories and carbohydrates. You may have to cut down on protein because your liver might not be able to break it down. You may need to take vitamin supplements. An exercise program may help you feel more energetic.

Alcoholic hepatitis is a serious disease. But it may be reversed if you take the right steps.

What We Have Learned

  1. Chronic alcohol abuse may lead to alcoholic hepatitis. True or false?
    The answer is True. Chronic alcohol abuse is the most common cause of alcoholic hepatitis.

  2. If left untreated, alcoholic hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis of the liver. True or false?
    The answer is True. The key to preventing this is to stop drinking.

  3. Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis always happen early in the disease. True or false?
    The answer is False. There may be no symptoms until the disease is severe.