Alcoholic liver disease is the major cause of liver disease in Western countries, (in Asian countries, viral hepatitis is the major cause). It arises from the excessive ingestion of alcohol.
Fatty change and alcoholic hepatitis are probably reversible. The later stages of fibrosis and cirrhosis tend to be irreversible but can usually be quite well managed for long periods of time.
Fatty change, or steatosis
is the accumulation of fat in liver cells
which can be seen as fatty globules under the microscope. Alcoholism
causes large fatty globules (macrovesicular steatosis). Small fatty globules have different causes. Other causes of macrovesicular steatosis include diabetes
. Alcoholic fatty change is probably dose related.
Some people get an acute hepatitis or inflammatory reaction to the cells affected by fatty change. This is not directly related to the dose of alcohol. Some people seem more prone to this reaction than others. This is called alcoholic steatonecrosis and the inflammation probably predisposes to liver fibrosis.
Liver fibrosis, in itself, is largely asymptomatic but as it progresses it can turn into cirrhosis, where the fibrosis alters the architecture and impairs the function of the liver.
is a late stage of liver disease marked by fibrosis and altered liver architecture. It is often progressive and may eventually lead to liver failure
. Late complications of cirrhosis or liver failure include portal hypertension
, coagulation disorders
and other complications including hepatic encephalopathy
and the hepatorenal syndrome
Cirrhosis also has number of other causes, such as hepatitis and toxins. The late stages of cirrhosis (say from viral hepatitis or alcohol) may look similar. This phenomenon is termed a "final common pathway" for a disease.