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Alchohol-related liver disease (ALD)

Fatty liver due to alcohol intake

Excess alcohol consumption damages your liver, but you may not have any symptoms until the harm to your liver is severe.

About

Prolonged alcohol misuse can reduce the liver's ability to regenerate. ALD refers to liver damage caused by excess alcohol intake and has three stages:

1. Alcoholic fatty liver disease: A build-up of fats in the liver
2. Alcoholic hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver
3. Cirrhosis: Accumulated scar tissue impairs liver function and can lead to liver failure

Need to know

  • Symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease (ALRD) icon plus

    You may not experience any symptoms of liver damage early on. In fact, many people who have alcohol-related fatty liver or hepatitis find out during routine tests for an unrelated illness. Early symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease can be non-specific. These include: - pain in the liver - fatigue - flu-like symptoms - loss of appetite - nausea - pale stools - rapid heart rate - increased sensitivity to alcohol or drugs Later symptoms as the liver struggles to function include: - jaundice - vomiting blood (haematemesis) - dark, black, tarry stools (melena) - significant weight loss - swollen abdomen (ascites) - confusion or 'brain fog' (hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and may recommend tests to aid diagnosis. Diagnosis is made through a combination of an assessment of your medical history, a physical examination and:

    • Liver Function Tests (LFTs) which measure various enzymes and proteins in the blood that are made or cleared by the liver
    • Imaging tests like FibroScan measures the amount of scar tissue (fibrosis) in your liver, while CT and MRI scans show scarring in cirrhosis
    • A liver biopsy may be required, where a tiny piece of your liver is taken to determine the extent of liver injury
    • An endoscopy to check for varices (abnormally dilated vessels, a sign of cirrhosis) in the oesophagus or stomach
     
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    If you've been diagnosed with ALD, your consultant will discuss your treatment options with you to help determine the best approach for you. Treatment options can include:

    • Stop drinking. For most people with fatty liver and alcoholic hepatitis, the liver can potentially heal itself if they stop drinking
    • A good balanced diet. Drinking alcohol can lead to malnutrition, due to consumption of empty calories, loss of appetite and malabsorption
    • Enteral nutrition. Nutrients fed through a tube can help your liver repair itself
    • Steroids. To control the inflammation of your liver
    • Liver transplantation. Where other treatments are no longer helpful
Consultant with patient

Our consultants

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Our facilities

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

  • facility-pgh-hero-579x579

    The Princess Grace Hospital

    42-52 Nottingham Place

    London W1U 5NY

    Appointments 020 3131 7216
    Enquiries 020 3130 6833

  • Wellington-south-hero-facility-582-582

    The Wellington Hospital

    Wellington Place

    London NW8 9LE

    Appointments 0207 483 5148
    Enquiries 020 3131 7478

  • London Bridge Hospital Facility

    London Bridge Hospital

    27 Tooley Street

    London

    SE1 2PR

    Appointments and Enquiries 020 7234 2009
    Imaging Appointments 020 7234 2773
    Switchboard 020 7407 3100

  • facility-HSC-flag-hero-582x582

    The Harley Street Clinic

    35 Weymouth Street

    London

    W1G 8BJ

    Appointments 020 7034 8181
    Enquiries 020 3131 7962

  • The Portland Hospital Facility

    The Portland Hospital

    205 - 209 Great Portland Street

    London

    W1W 5AH

    Children's enquiries 020 7390 8020
    Maternity enquiries 020 7390 6068
    Gynaecology enquiries 020 7390 6200

Request an appointment

We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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