An average Indian drinks about 96 ml of alcohol a day in urban areas and 220 ml of alcohol in rural areas. In Northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, people consume as high as 749 ml and 304 ml of alcohol per week. With higher alcohol consumption, people are largely prone to liver diseases like fatty liver, cirrhosis and others.
The symptoms of most of the organ-specific diseases are likely to be seen in the organ itself. But there is a different angle to it when it comes to liver diseases caused by alcohol consumption.
The liver rarely shows signs like swelling or pain during early stages of damage. Liver problems have many signs, but oddly, none of them point to the liver at first. As a result, many people assume their liver is healthy.
Contrary to their assumption, however, the first signs of liver damage occur in other parts of the body. These are multifaceted symptoms that are confusing because of their association with other illnesses. In most cases, diagnosis and prognosis is possible only when the doctor is aware that the patient is alcoholic.
Here are the range of signs that alcoholics and their families should know in regard to their risk of developing liver cirrhosis:
The liver filters out all toxins from food and helps in breaking down fat and glucose. When a liver starts getting damaged, it reduces the digestive work and invests its energy on essential functions like metabolizing medications and filtering toxins. Thus, an alcoholic person may develop symptoms like nausea, vomiting, gas and diarrhoea. These symptoms are common in many alcoholics and should not be taken lightly.
The liver filters dangerous substances in our blood. It helps in regulating hormones, blood glucose and vitamin absorption. In early stages of liver damage, these processes can be interrupted, and, consequently, our brain and nervous system may get affected. Thus, problems like fatigue, confusion, dizziness and memory issues can also be understood as early signs of liver damage.
The liver stores thiamine or Vitamin B1 essential for the functioning of many organs. Unfortunately, with a high degree of alcohol in the system, the liver is unable to store thiamine in required quantities if already damaged. Thiamine deficiency is responsible for many neurological issues in alcoholics and the symptoms range from mild to severe and may include mental fog, lack of balance, numbness or pain in hands and feet, muscle weakness, rapid heart rate, involuntary eye movements and so on. So, thiamine deficiency in an alcoholic person could be a sure sign of a damaged liver.
For many people, alcohol consumption causes flushing of face and hands because of blood vessel dilation. It can result in permanent redness in the face. There could be spider angiomas even during early stages of liver damage. These angiomas often progress to more extensive lesions.
The above are only a few signs of liver damage that happen outside of the liver. Most alcohol consumers are unaware of these and do not take such concerns seriously. It is, however, important that they are honest with their doctor about their drinking habit to ensure a proper diagnosis and timely treatment.
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