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Alcoholic Hepatitis

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 4, 2020 10:00:00 AM / by Calvin Leong


Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by drinking lots of alcohol in a short time.

Alcoholic hepatitis is liver inflammation that is caused by drinking a lot of alcohol over a long period of time. This inflammation decreases the liver's ability to function normally. This condition requires you to stop drinking alcohol permanently to prevent further damage to the liver.

What Are The Causes?

Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by long-term (chronic) heavy alcohol use.

The liver filters alcohol out of the bloodstream. When alcohol gets divided into small particles (broken down) in the liver, substances are produced that can damage liver cells. This causes destruction of liver cells and liver inflammation.

What Are The Risk Factors?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol, especially in a short amount of time (binge drinking).
  • Drinking heavily for years.
  • Being female.
  • Being obese.
  • Having had a hepatitis infection in the past.
  • Having a liver problem that you were born with (genetic liver disease).
  • Having a lack (deficiency) of certain nutrients, such as folate or
  • Having a parent or sibling who has alcoholic hepatitis.

Alcoholic hepatitis may be more likely to develop in people who binge drink and had hepatitis.

What Are The Signs Or Symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Pain and swelling in the abdomen.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Losing weight without trying.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice).
  • Veins that you can see ("spider veins"), especially in the abdomen.
  • Bleeding easily, such as excessive bleeding from a minor cut.
  • Itching
  • Trouble thinking clearly.
  • Memory problems.
  • Mood changes.
  • Confusion

How Is Alcoholic Hepatitis Diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed with:

  • A physical exam and a review of medical history.
  • Blood tests to check liver function.
  • Tests that create detailed images of the body. These may include:
    • A liver ultrasound.
    • CT scan.
    • MRI
  • A liver biopsy. For this test, a small sample of liver tissue is removed and checked for signs of liver damage.

Alcoholic hepatitis can be diagnosed by blood tests, scanning tests and liver biopsy.

How Is Alcoholic Hepatitis Treated?

The most important part of treatment is to stop drinking alcohol. If you are addicted to alcohol, your health care provider will help you make a plan to quit. This plan may involve:

  • Taking medicine to decrease unpleasant symptoms that are caused by stopping or decreasing alcohol use (withdrawal symptoms).
  • Entering a treatment program to help you stop drinking.
  • Joining a support group.

Treatment for alcoholic hepatitis may also include:

  • Steroid medicines to reduce inflammation.
  • Nutritional therapy. Your healthcare provider or a diet and nutrition specialist (dietitian) may recommend:
    • Eating a healthy diet.
    • Eating specific foods that contain vitamins and minerals to help you maintain nutrient levels in your body.
    • Taking vitamins and dietary supplements to make sure you maintain nutrient levels in your body.
  • Receiving a donated liver (liver transplant). This is only done in very severe cases, and only for people who have completely stopped drinking and can commit to never drinking alcohol again.

Follow These Instructions At Home:

  • Do not drink alcohol. Follow your treatment plan, and work with your health care provider as needed.
  • Consider joining an alcohol support group. These groups can provide emotional support and guidance.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider. These include vitamins and supplements.
  • Do not use medicines or eat foods that contain alcohol unless told by your health care provider.
  • Follow instructions from your healthcare provider or dietitian about nutritional therapy.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your healthcare provider. This is important.

Contact A Healthcare Provider If:

  • you have a fever.
  • you have a decreased appetite.
  • you have flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, or muscle aches.
  • you have nausea or vomiting.
  • you bruise easily.
  • your urine is very dark.
  • you develop new pain in your abdomen.


Seek medical help if you have a fever, flu-like symptoms, nausea, abdominal pain and reduced appetite.

Get Help Right Away If:

  • you vomit blood.
  • you develop jaundice.
  • you have severely itchy skin.
  • your legs swell.
  • your abdomen suddenly swells.
  • you have stools that are black, tar-like, or bloody.
  • you bleed easily, such as excessive bleeding from a minor cut.
  • you are confused or not thinking clearly.
  • you have a seizure.


  • Alcoholic hepatitis is liver inflammation that is caused by drinking a lot of alcohol over a long period of time.
  • Alcoholic hepatitis is diagnosed with blood tests that check liver function.
  • The most important part of treatment is to stop drinking alcohol. Follow your treatment plan, and work with your health care provider as needed.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.


Aberg F., Helenius-Hietala J., Puukka P., and Jula A.: Binge drinking and the risk of liver events: A population-based cohort study. Liver Int 2017

Bagnardi V., Rota M., Botteri E., Tramacere I., Islami F., Fedirko V., et al: Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: a comprehensive dose-response meta-analysis. Br J Cancer 2015; 112: pp. 580-593

Hazeldine S., Hydes T., and Sheron N.: Alcoholic liver disease - the extent of the problem and what you can do about it. Clin Med 2015

OECD. Alcohol consumption among adults. In: Health at a Glance 2017.2017:72–73.

Rehm J., Gmel G.E., Gmel G., Hasan O.S.M., Imtiaz S., Popova S., et al: The relationship between different dimensions of alcohol use and the burden of disease-an update. Addiction 2017; 112: pp. 968-1001

Sheron N.: Alcohol and liver disease in Europe-Simple measures have the potential to prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths. J Hepatol 2016; 64: pp. 957-967


To learn more about alcoholic hepatitis, visit:

Malaysia Hepatitis Support Group

Ministry of Health Malaysia - Hepatitis

Alcoholic Anonymous Malaysia

Johns Hopkins Medicine – Alcoholic Hepatitis

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Topics: Wellness

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He is certified in Clinical Wound Care by the ASEAN Wound Care Association. Calvin has 20 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Mentoring in Healthcare, Traumatology and Medical Sciences. Calvin is HRDC certified trainer. He is also a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP) and the Malaysian Society of Wound Care Professionals (MSWCP).

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