Alcohol-Related Liver Disease: How Long Does It Take the Liver to Repair Itself From Alcohol?
In 2019, almost 25,000 Americans died of alcohol-related liver disease.
Alcoholic liver disease is more common than you might think. Anyone drinking just two to three drinks a day likely has some form of liver disease.
Liver disease has serious complications and can eventually be fatal. Luckily, the liver can recover with proper intervention.
Read on to learn more about the stages of alcoholic liver disease and how long it takes for the liver to recover.
What Happens to the Liver When You Drink Alcohol?
The liver plays a vital role in the human body. In fact, it performs over 500 different functions.
Most importantly, the liver filters all of the blood in the body, removing toxins like alcohol. It also produces bile, which helps the body to digest fat.
The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol. A healthy liver is usually capable of breaking down a moderate amount of alcohol.
However, heavy drinking causes liver damage. Heavy drinking is more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.
When there is more alcohol than the liver can metabolize, it damages liver cells. Over time, this leads to alcohol-related liver disease.
What Is Alcohol-Related Liver Disease?
Alcohol-related liver disease is an umbrella term that describes three common liver diseases that are caused by heavy drinking. Those three diseases are fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcohol-related cirrhosis.
Generally, fatty liver disease occurs first and later progresses to hepatitis and cirrhosis unless there is an intervention and treatment.
Each of these three stages has different symptoms and varies in severity. Here we will break down the progression of alcoholic liver disease.
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease, or steatosis, is the most common alcohol-related liver disease. It affects nearly everyone who drinks heavily.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the buildup of fat cells in the liver due to heavy drinking.
This disease does not present many symptoms, but you may notice pain and pain or a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen. It is often the first sign of liver damage from excessive drinking.
When left untreated, fatty liver disease can develop into hepatitis and eventually cirrhosis. These are far more serious conditions.
Alcoholic hepatitis is the next progression of alcohol liver disease. It is the inflammation of the liver due to excessive drinking.
Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (or yellowing skin and eyes)
- Vomiting blood
- Weight loss
Alcoholic hepatitis can cause liver cells to die and lead to liver failure, which is fatal.
A doctor can usually diagnose alcoholic hepatitis with blood tests or scans like an MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan.
Sometimes a doctor will need to perform a liver biopsy in order to determine which liver disease is present.
Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most advanced stage of alcohol-related liver disease. At this stage, the liver is very damaged and struggling to perform its functions.
10-20% of heavy drinkers will develop cirrhosis. Though it usually progresses from the other stages of alcohol-related liver disease, some people can develop cirrhosis without having fatty liver disease or alcoholic hepatitis.
Alcoholic cirrhosis occurs when continued damage to the liver causes an excess of scar tissue that impedes the liver’s functioning. This has a number of serious complications since the liver is vital in removing toxins from the blood.
In addition to the symptoms experienced with alcoholic hepatitis, individuals suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis can also experience:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Mental confusion
- Blood in the stool and urine
- Swollen blood vessels and veins
Alcoholic cirrhosis can be diagnosed using lab and imaging tests, but a biopsy may help to determine how advanced the disease is.
Can You Recover From Alcohol-Related Liver Disease?
If you are a heavy drinker, you are likely wondering how long does it take the liver to repair itself from alcohol damage? The answer to this question is quite complex.
The good news is that a lot of liver damage is reversible if treated early enough. Unlike other organs, the liver is able to regenerate, which can reverse some forms of damage.
The length of time needed to recover depends on how damaged your liver is. Depending on the severity of the damage, healing can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
Unfortunately, not all forms of liver disease are reversible. once scar tissue forms on the liver, those cells are no longer able to regenerate.
The only way to prevent further damage is to stop drinking as soon as you notice signs of liver disease. The earlier you diagnose alcohol-related liver disease, the better.
If you stop drinking, alcoholic fatty liver disease often goes away. Unfortunately, once the liver disease develops to alcoholic hepatitis, your liver will not be able to fully recover.
Advanced cirrhosis is fatal. The liver damage from cirrhosis cannot be undone, but if it is diagnosed early enough and treated properly, you can prevent it from developing further.
Undergoing an alcohol detox process at a recovery facility is the best way to help your liver recover. Detoxing and treating your alcohol addiction is the only way for your liver to recover.
Get the Support You Need to Recover
Alcohol-related liver disease does not need to be a death sentence. As soon as you stop drinking, you prevent further liver damage.
If you are struggling to overcome your alcohol addiction, there is help available. At Wellness Retreat Recovery Center, you will get a personalized treatment plan that helps you to treat the underlying issues so that you can stop drinking once and for all.
Contact us today to learn about our holistic approach to recovery and how it can help you combat your addiction.