- Other types of hepatitis. Long-term alcohol abuse worsens the liver damage caused by other types of hepatitis, especially hepatitis C. If you have hepatitis C and also drink — even moderately — you’re more likely to develop cirrhosis than if you don’t drink.
- Malnutrition. Many people who drink heavily are malnourished, either because they eat poorly or because alcohol and its toxic byproducts prevent the body from properly absorbing and breaking down nutrients, especially protein, certain vitamins and fats. In both cases, the lack of nutrients contributes to liver cell damage.
Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) and increasing girth (due to fluid accumulation) are the most common signs of alcoholic hepatitis that lead people to seek medical care.
People may also complain of:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
- Weight loss
Just about everyone who has alcoholic hepatitis is malnourished. Drinking large amounts of alcohol suppresses the appetite, and heavy drinkers get most of their calories in the form of alcohol.
Signs and symptoms of severe alcoholic hepatitis include:
- Retaining large amounts of fluid in your abdominal cavity (ascites)
- Confusion and behavior changes due to brain damage from buildup of toxins (encephalopathy)
- Kidney and liver failure
When to see a doctor
- Alcoholic hepatitis is a serious disease. As many as 35 percent of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis. And more than a third of them die within six months after signs and symptoms begin to appear.
- See your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis or other signs and symptoms that worry you. If you ever feel as though you can’t control your drinking or feel that you’d like help in cutting back on your drinking, see your doctor.