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Alcoholic Cirrhosis Symptoms

Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis from Alcohol

Cirrhosis is scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by long-term liver damage. The scar tissue prevents the liver from working properly.

Cirrhosis is sometimes called an end-stage liver disease because it happens after other stages of damage from conditions that affect the liver, such as hepatitis.

Your liver may keep working even when you have alcoholic cirrhosis. However, cirrhosis can eventually lead to liver failure, and you can get serious complications, which can be life-threatening.

Treatment may be able to stop cirrhosis from getting worse.

There’s no cure for cirrhosis at the moment. However, there are ways to manage the alcoholic cirrhosis symptoms and any complications and slow their progression. Treating the problem that led to cirrhosis (for example, using anti-viral medicines to treat hepatitis C) can stop cirrhosis from getting worse.

You may be advised to cut down or stop drinking alcohol, or to lose weight if you’re overweight. This process of alcohol cessation may require inpatient treatment for long-term recovery.

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Symptoms
When you stop using alcohol, your liver does not need to work as hard to do its job. We recognize that each person’s path to recovery from alcoholic cirrhosis symptoms is different and we are here to help. 

The liver is often able to repair some of the damage caused by alcohol so that you can live a normal life. In some cases, a liver transplant may be considered. But you must complete a rehab program and go through alcohol detox before this is even an option.

Alcoholic liver disease is common but can be prevented. [1] There are 3 types. Many heavy drinkers progress through these 3 types over time:

  • Fatty liver. Fatty liver is the build-up of fat inside the liver cells. It leads to an enlarged liver. It’s the most common alcohol-induced liver problem.
  • Alcoholic hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis is an acute inflammation of the liver. There is death of liver cells, often followed by permanent scarring.
  • Alcoholic cirrhosis. Alcoholic liver cirrhosis is the destruction of normal liver tissue. It leaves scar tissue in place of the working liver tissue.

The liver is a large organ that sits up under the ribs on the right side of the belly (abdomen). The liver:

  • Helps filter waste from the body
  • Makes bile to help digest food
  • Stores sugar that the body uses for energy
  • Makes proteins that work in many places in the body, for example, proteins that cause blood to clot

General Symptoms of Liver Diseases

You may have no signs or symptoms of cirrhosis until your liver is badly damaged.

Early alcoholic cirrhosis symptoms [2] may include:

  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Poor appetite
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mild pain or discomfort in the upper right side of your abdomen

As liver function gets worse, you may have other symptoms, including:

  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Confusion, difficulties thinking, memory loss, personality changes, or sleep disorders
  • Swelling in your lower legs, ankles, or feet, called edema
  • Bloating from buildup of fluid in your abdomen, called ascites
  • Severe itchy skin
  • Darkening of the color of your urine
  • Yellowish tint to the whites of your eyes and skin, called jaundice

Differentiation Between Alcoholic Hepatitis and Alcoholic Cirrhosis

About 30% of people with alcoholic liver disease have hepatitis C virus. Others have hepatitis B virus. Your provider will test you for both and treat you if needed. [3]

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Symptoms
Alcoholic cirrhosis symptoms typically develop when a person is between the ages of 30 and 40. 

People with alcoholic liver disease are also at greater risk for liver cancer.

About 50% of people with alcoholic liver disease have gallstones.

Those with cirrhosis often develop kidney problems, intestinal bleeding, fluid in the belly, confusion, liver cancer, and severe infections.

The liver is one of the most complex organs in the human body, with over 500 functions. These include filtering out blood toxins, storing energy, making hormones and proteins, and regulating cholesterol and blood sugar.

Liver damage can affect the whole body. Once damage begins, it can take a long time to become noticeable, as the liver is generally highly effective at regenerating and repairing itself. Often, by the time the damage is found, it is irreversible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014 the number of deaths from alcoholic liver disease in the United States was 19,388, while all causes of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis are estimated to lead to 12 fatalities per 100,000 people per year.

What Causes Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis has different causes. Some people with cirrhosis have more than one cause of liver damage.

Alcoholic liver disease is caused by the heavy use of alcohol. The liver’s job is to break down alcohol. If you drink more than it can process, it can become badly damaged.

Fatty liver can happen in anyone who drinks a lot. Alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis are linked to the long-term alcohol abuse seen in alcoholics.

Healthcare providers don’t know why some people who drink alcohol get the liver disease while others do not. Research suggests there may be a genetic link, but this is not yet clear.

Most Common Causes

The most common causes of cirrhosis are:

  • Alcoholic liver disease—damage to the liver and its function due to alcohol abuse
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Chronic hepatitis C
  • Chronic hepatitis B
Alcoholic Cirrhosis Symptoms
Alcoholic cirrhosis symptoms are similar to other alcohol-related liver disorders.

Less Common Causes

Some of the less common [4] causes of cirrhosis include:

  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Diseases that damage, destroy, or block bile ducts, such as primary biliary cholangitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Inherited liver diseases—diseases passed from parents to children through genes—that affect how the liver works, such as Wilson disease, hemochromatosis, and alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency
  • Long-term use of certain medications
  • Chronic heart failure with liver congestion, a condition in which blood flow out of the liver is slowed

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Symptoms Treatment


This can help to reverse some early stages of liver disease. For example, stopping drinking once diagnosed with fatty liver disease may be able to reverse the condition within 2 to 6 weeks. [5]

Once a person is diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease at any stage, it is recommended to never resume drinking. Any conditions that have reversed will typically return once drinking restarts.

As alcohol dependency can make it more difficult to quit drinking alcohol, it is necessary to gradually reduce alcohol intake.

Those who regularly drink more than the recommended daily limits of alcohol should not stop drinking without medical support. Withdrawal from alcohol can be life-threatening. Individuals should seek help from a medical professional to safely manage alcohol withdrawal.

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Symptoms
The first step is to treat alcoholic cirrhosis symptoms that are causing your cirrhosis to progress; to prevent any more damage. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications called benzodiazepines can be used to ease withdrawal symptoms in a person with alcohol dependency. People with severe alcohol dependency may stay at an inpatient rehabilitation facility for closer monitoring.

Ongoing therapy may then be required to prevent a relapse into drinking alcohol. Medications such as acamprosate, naltrexone, topiramate, baclofen, and disulfiram can also be used to help prevent relapse.

In people with liver failure, the liver completely ceases to function. This can be an outcome of advanced-stage liver disease and often means that a liver transplant is the only option for prolonged survival.

Typically, only people who can show at least six months of abstinence from alcohol before the procedure and those with other organ systems that are healthy enough to undergo surgery will be considered for the transplant.

A liver transplant is a complicated procedure that depends on a donor being available. Anti-rejection medications given after transplant can increase the risk of serious infections and certain cancers.

A liver transplant is a last resort. Quitting alcohol and treating this condition early on is the best way for a person to increase their chances of reversing or slowing the disease.

Life-long abstinence can improve liver function, but the permanent and severe damage from cirrhosis might mean that the patient needs a liver transplant to survive.

As the liver no longer processes toxins properly, it will be more sensitive to medications and alcohol. Alcohol use speeds up the destruction of the liver, along with reducing the liver’s ability to compensate for the current damage.

Inpatient Treatment at We Level Up Texas

Doctors can reverse some forms of liver disease with treatment, but alcoholic liver cirrhosis usually can’t be changed. However, your doctor can recommend treatments that may slow the disease’s progress and reduce your alcoholic cirrhosis symptoms. The first step in treatment is to help the person stop drinking. Those with alcoholic liver cirrhosis are often so dependent on alcohol that they could experience severe health complications if they try to quit without being in the hospital. However, a doctor can recommend a hospital or treatment facility to start the journey toward sobriety. [6]

During an inpatient treatment stay, clients who are dependent on drugs or alcohol typically start with a medical detoxification process through which we work to detox the body from drugs and alcohol in a safe, comfortable manner.

Ongoing residential or inpatient care then provides a structured environment centered around the individual, group, and families as well as educational, art, and music sessions, recovery/12-step activities, and community sessions. Clients also receive psychiatric, nutritional, spiritual, and other services when needed. These sessions are administered by a highly qualified team including masters-level clinicians, therapists, social workers, case managers, medical professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors.

Alcoholic Cirrhosis Symptoms
Our complete continuum of care provides clients with the necessary structure to combat addiction and prevent relapse.

We Level Up Treatment Texas is a multi-faceted drug & alcohol inpatient rehab that uses a repertoire of methods to generate practical solutions to major drug/alcohol challenges targeted towards families and individuals. We work to improve the health of the public and of individuals from a variety of angles. This includes constant research and innovation on substance abuse treatment models as paired with individuals and a conducive environment.

Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life from alcoholic cirrhosis symptoms. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.


[1,3] Alcoholic Liver Disease –
[2,4] Symptoms & Causes of Cirrhosis – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health
[5] What’s to know about alcoholic liver disease? –
[6] We Level Up – Addiction » Alcoholic Cirrhosis

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