How Alcohol Contributes to Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This scar tissue is not able to perform the important filtering mechanisms that healthy liver tissue does, thus decreasing the overall function of the liver. There are multiple ways in which cirrhosis of the liver can develop. Drinking alcohol is just one way to cause scarring in the liver. But exactly how does alcohol damage the liver?

How Alcohol Damages the Liver

The liver helps to filter alcohol out of your blood when you drink. Whether you binge drink, have a glass of wine every night or just drink at formal events, your liver is tasked with clearing this toxin out of your system. First, an enzyme called acetaldehyde forms when alcohol interacts with the liver. Acetaldehyde is capable of damaging liver cells. Fortunately, the liver is able to produce substances that render acetaldehyde inert. One of these substances is called glutathione. If you have just one drink, the liver can produce plenty of glutathione to render acetaldehyde inert. But with heavy alcohol consumption, the production of glutathione is quickly outmatched by the production of acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is then free to wreak havoc unchecked.

Cirrhosis Is the Most Advanced Stage of Liver Damage

The damage caused by acetaldehyde after one drink isn’t noticeable overnight, but eventually the liver will show signs of stress. Fatty liver disease is the first stage of chronic liver disease. This can be reversed if alcohol consumption is ceased. The second stage is alcoholic hepatitis, in which the liver is inflamed and irritated due to constant interaction with alcohol. The third stage is cirrhosis, in which the damage is irreversible due to heavy scarring from acetaldehyde. Cirrhosis develops faster in people who drink heavily due to the excess damage caused by acetaldehyde when the liver is overtaxed. If you love your liver and don’t want to find out what it means to live without it, the solution is simple: don’t drink. Easier said than done? Call us for a free consultation about rehab options for treating alcohol addiction. Don’t let a healthy life pass you by.


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