Alcoholic fatty liver symptoms

Updated April 17, 2017

Alcoholic fatty liver is a condition linked to the excessive consumption of alcohol. The toxic effects of alcohol appear within just a few days after a drinking binge when greasy deposits of fat form on the liver. Symptoms of severe cases of alcoholic fatty liver may include abdominal discomfort, jaundice, malaise, nausea and weakness. Alcoholic fatty liver is reversible through abstinence. But continued alcohol abuse may lead to more serious liver disorders like cirrhosis or cancer.


The body's largest solid organ, the liver secretes bile to assist with digestion and processes and stores fats and carbohydrates. Located below the diaphragm, the liver also cleanses the blood stream by removing dead and unhealthy cells, microorganisms and other toxins.

Due to its important functions, alcohol-related damage to the liver poses a serious threat to an individual's overall health.


It's estimated that more than 15 million people in the U.S. depend on or abuse alcohol. Alcoholic fatty liver is thought to develop in 90 to 100 per cent of heavy drinkers.


Alcoholic fatty liver can usually be detected during an ultrasound examination. However, a definitive diagnosis requires a liver biopsy.


The best treatment for alcoholic fatty liver is to abstain from drinking. If no alcohol is ingested, the liver will return to its normal appearance with two to four weeks.


Alcoholic fatty liver should not be confused with non-alcoholic fatty liver, an emerging condition that is now believed to be the most common cause of abnormal liver-function tests in people who don't drink. Non-alcoholic fatty liver is linked to factors such as a poor diet, obesity and metabolic disorders.

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About the Author

Kirk Brown is an award-winning freelance writer with two decades of diverse media experience. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he also was managing editor of an acclaimed scuba diving magazine. Brown has written scripts for more than 50 half-hour TV programs focusing on technology and health topics.