Alcoholism and cirrhosis are both potentially fatal diseases. It is a well established fact that alcoholism is one of the most common causes of cirrhosis of the liver. Experts estimate that as many as 20% of all heavy drinkers will develop an alcoholic liver disease (ALD), such as cirrhosis, with continued alcohol abuse.
The liver makes proteins that produce healthy blood clotting. It also helps cleanse the blood of dangerous toxins and bacteria, which may cause infection. This organ also helps process cholesterol, hormones and nutrients in the blood.
Also known as hepatic cirrhosis or alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis is a buildup of scar tissue on the liver. The thickening of the tissue on this organ causes it to work harder than it normally would. With time, the liver wears out and begins to malfunction, which leaves a person susceptible to a host of serious complications.
Ever since researchers first discovered a correlation, the direct link between alcoholism and cirrhosis has been undeniable. Studying the effects of alcoholism and cirrhosis is often associated with studying the cause and effect of liver damage. This is because when alcohol enters the liver, it causes inflammation, which then leads to the creation of scar tissue.
Alcoholism and cirrhosis both tend to develop before a person realizes how either is affecting her or his life. Each tends to manifest through a gradual process. In fact, in its earliest stages, individuals with alcoholic cirrhosis often do not experience any recognizable symptoms. This compounds the issue of alcoholism and cirrhosis as further damage to the organ is sustained when a person continues to abuse alcohol.
When detected before major damage is done, with treatment and lifestyle changes that include abstaining from alcohol, the liver can recover from cirrhosis. Without early detection, immediate treatment and lifestyle changes, however, the damage from alcoholism and cirrhosis is usually permanent. It is at this point that an individual’s only option for a healthy liver is that of a liver transplant, but such is only made available to those who do not abuse alcohol.
Alcoholism and cirrhosis are further impacted by other conditions that invade the body when the liver is compromised. One such condition is malnutrition due to a malfunctioning liver being unable to properly absorb the right amount of nutrients needed to sustain the body. Also, without being able to properly address the task of removing toxins from the blood, cirrhosis causes a buildup of toxins that lead to frequent infections and a neurological condition known as hepatic encephalopathy, which is characterized by poor mental focus and confusion. For some, cirrhosis of the liver even leads to kidney failure. Research also indicates that alcoholism and cirrhosis increases an individual’s chances of developing liver cancer later in life.