Liver Cirrhosis from Alcohol: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Cirrhosis of the liver can result from alcohol abuse. Liver cirrhosis is a condition characterized by irreversible scarring that impairs liver function. This damage can eventually cause liver failure. Cirrhosis develops due to ongoing liver injury over a prolonged period. The primary culprits include alcohol and drug use, viral infections, and metabolic issues.

What Is Liver Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is advanced stage liver disease, where scar tissue gradually replaces healthy liver tissue, primarily due to chronic hepatitis. Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, can be triggered by many different factors. Continuous inflammation leads to the liver forming scar tissue in an attempt to heal, but excessive scarring stunts the liver’s functionality, culminating in chronic liver failure.

The progression of cirrhosis involves an accumulation of scar tissue that inflames the condition. Initially, the body may adapt, maintaining sufficient liver function despite reduced capacity. This phase is known as compensated cirrhosis. However, as the liver’s condition deteriorates, noticeable symptoms emerge, indicating a shift to decompensated cirrhosis.

This scarring disrupts the normal flow of blood and oxygen within the liver, impairing its ability to process blood, metabolize nutrients, and eliminate toxins. Beyond this, cirrhosis affects the liver’s production of bile and vital blood proteins. Scar tissue can also exert pressure on the liver’s blood vessels, including the crucial portal vein system, causing portal hypertension, a severe complication of cirrhosis.

husband talking to wife representing liver cirrhosis from alcohol

Signs of Cirrhosis of The Liver from Alcohol

The signs of liver cirrhosis from alcohol may vary based on its stage of progression. In the early stages, you might not experience any symptoms, or the symptoms might be so subtle and non-specific that they can easily be mistaken for those of other conditions. As the disease progresses and liver function worsens, the symptoms become more distinct, reflecting issues such as bile not being properly processed and accumulating where it shouldn’t.

Initial symptoms of cirrhosis can include:

  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Pain in upper abdomen
  • Spider-like blood vessels on the skin
  • Reddening of palms

Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis from Alcohol

Symptoms of cirrhosis are broadly divided into those associated with deteriorating liver function and those stemming from portal hypertension. Jaundice, indicating impaired bile flow, is a key sign of reduced liver capacity. Conversely, symptoms linked to portal hypertension are more specific to cirrhosis, resulting from scar tissue constricting the portal vein in the liver.

Symptoms signaling reduced liver functionality include:

  • Jaundice
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stools
  • Trouble digesting fats
  • Small deposits of fat around eyelids
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Muscle loss
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Memory problems
  • Tremors
  • Muscle twitching
  • Impaired muscle control
  • Irregular menstrual cycles

Symptoms indicative of portal hypertension include:

  • Accumulation of fluid in abdomen
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Blood in vomit or stools
  • Reduced urine production
  • Breathlessness

Treatment for Liver Cirrhosis from Alcohol

Cirrhosis marks a phase of liver disease where irreversible scarring prevents the liver from healing itself, despite its remarkable regenerative capabilities. Progression of cirrhosis can often be slowed or halted, though, depending on the underlying cause, its treatability, and the effectiveness of treatment responses.

Approaches to treating liver cirrhosis involve:

  • Addressing the root cause to minimize further damage
  • Adopting dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce liver burden
  • Monitoring and treating cirrhosis-related complications
  • Considering liver transplantation in severe cases

Medications can play a role in managing specific liver conditions with varied outcomes. For instance, antiviral drugs can eliminate chronic hepatitis C, but only control chronic hepatitis B. Autoimmune liver diseases may benefit from corticosteroids and immunosuppressants, although effectiveness varies. Some inherited liver diseases can be reversed with medications, while others might only see symptom management.

For those with liver disease linked to toxins or alcohol, removing these substances is imperative and may require substance use disorder treatment. For NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), controlling metabolic factors like cholesterol, glucose levels, and body weight can offer relief. This may require medications.

Abstaining from alcohol and liver-damaging drugs is beneficial for all liver disease types, as is managing metabolic stress. A balanced diet and appropriate weight are universally recommended for liver health, alongside dietary supplements to plug nutritional gaps.

Upon diagnosing cirrhosis, healthcare providers will screen for complications like portal hypertension, each with its tailored treatments, which might include:

  • Procedures to close off bleeding veins
  • Blood transfusions
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Treatment for fluid accumulation
  • Laxatives to remove toxins from the GI tract

Liver cancer, especially hepatocellular carcinoma, is a significant risk for those with cirrhosis. While not all cirrhosis patients develop liver cancer, it is a common progression. Treatment may involve cancer therapies or liver transplantation. Liver transplantation becomes an option when health is expected to worsen without it, such as in cases of active liver failure, cancer, or unresponsive liver disease. Eligibility for transplantation leads to placement on a national waiting list, with urgency dictating priority.

ohio recovery centers facility from curb view, representing Symptoms of liver cirrhosis from alcohol

Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

At Ohio Recovery Centers, you can engage with evidence-based alcohol addiction treatment at our Cincinnati rehab in an outpatient capacity. This enables you to maintain your everyday commitments without compromising your recovery.

Those with severe alcohol use disorders will benefit from our supervised medical detoxification program to streamline withdrawal and mitigate complications. You can choose from a variety of intensive outpatient programs following detox, allowing you to address the psychological aspect of alcohol addiction.

All alcohol addictions are unique, so treatment at Ohio Recovery Centers reflects this with individualized care. You can access a blend of medications, talk therapies, motivational therapies, counseling, and holistic treatments. All treatment programs also feature a comprehensive aftercare component due to the relapsing nature of addiction.

Call 877-679-2132 right away for effective and compassionate alcohol addiction treatment in Ohio.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn