According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 61 per cent of U.S. adults drink alcohol. Most users will not experience any harmful effects. When alcohol is consumed in large quantities---as by alcoholics or binge drinkers---the liver can be severely damaged.
Alcoholic liver disease is an umbrella term for liver conditions caused by alcohol abuse---fat build-up in the liver (fatty liver); inflammation of the liver (hepatitis); and the most serious condition, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver.
Doctors confirm alcoholic liver disease with blood tests, imaging and/or tissue testing. Blood tests check liver enzymes for signs of disease, while imaging---such as a CT or MRI scan---can show fat build-up or inflammation. Tissue testing, or a biopsy, looks at samples of liver tissue for inflammation or scarring.
The Mayo Clinic says the No. 1 recommendation for patients with alcohol-related liver diseases is to stop drinking. Existing damage is typically treated with dietary changes and anti-inflammatory medication, such as corticosteroids. In serious cases, a liver transplant may be needed.
The life expectancy for people with alcoholic liver diseases depends on the disease, health status and treatment. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 90 per cent of patients with cirrhosis who stop drinking will live at least five more years.
Though some damage done by excessive drinking is permanent, abstaining from alcohol can allow at least partial healing, and dramatically increase your chances of survival.