Alcoholic Hepatitis


Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by excessive and chronic alcohol use. The disease progresses to cirrhosis of the liver if alcohol abuse continues. A history of alcohol abuse is key to diagnosis. Although alcoholic hepatitis is typically found in those that abuse alcohol, it can also occur in non-alcoholics. A liver biopsy can be done to confirm the diagnosis. The incidence is 3 cases per 10,000 individuals. The recovery is slow. It may take weeks to months for the liver to heal. If cirrhosis has developed, the liver may not be able to recover.

Symptoms of Your Diagnosis
The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis may not appear until the disease is severe. The symptoms are similar to those of viral hepatitis. The first symptoms may be a variety of rashes, joint pains and other "flu-like" symptoms. Finally, jaundice, a condition in which there is a yellow color to the skin or whites of the eyes, may be noted. The jaundice results from the excess bilirubin in the blood. The excess bilirubin can also lead to other symptoms such as pale or clay-colored stools, dark urine, and generalized itching. The symptoms of severe disease include high fever, enlargement of the liver, mental confusion and coma. Because of the drinking of alcohol, the individual may be malnourished.

The treatment of alcoholic hepatitis is supportive. The key to healing is to stop drinking alcohol. Working with an alcohol rehabilitation program is important in assisting with this. Dietary support is the treatment for malnourishment. The recommended diet is high in carbohydrates and calories. The nutritional status may be so severe that intravenous feedings are necessary. Also needed is vitamin supplementation, especially the B vitamins to include B1 and folic acid.

What To Do

  • Stop drinking.
  • Seek treatment for your alcohol problem.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Protein may need to be avoided in the diet because the liver may not be able to break it down.
  • Modify activity according to the symptoms. A good fitness program may help with the fatigue.

What Not To Do

  • Do not take medications that can be harmful to the liver such as acetaminophen, commonly called Tylenol®, sedatives and tranquilizers.
  • Do not use megavitamin therapy and other nutritional products without first consulting your clinician.

Contact Your Healthcare Provider

  • If you need help to stop drinking
  • If you develop symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis
  • If you develop symptoms after prolonged or heavy drinking

What We Have Learned
Chronic alcohol abuse may lead to alcoholic hepatitis.
The answer is TRUE

If left untreated, alcoholic hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis of the liver.
The answer is TRUE


Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis happen early in the disease.
The answer is FALSE

For More Information

For More Information
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services
P.O. Box 459
Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163

Liver Disease
American Liver Foundation
908 Pompton Ave.
Cedar Grove, NJ 07009

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3570

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
386 Park Avenue South, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10016-7374



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