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What Is the Relationship between Alcohol and Jaundice?

Fatty liver disease means the liver is not fully metabolizing fats.
Excessive alcoholic consumption can lead to jaundice.
An ultrasound can be used to detect liver damage.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can, over time, lead to liver disease.
Not all alcoholics develop jaundice.
Damage due to cirrhosis is not reversible and is often fatal.
Excessive consumption of alcohol can damage the liver, leading to jaundice.
Alcohol-related liver damage typically occurs in three stages.
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  • Written By: Emily Daw
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2015
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Excessive consumption of alcohol over an extended period of time can lead to jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, due to the presence of bilirubin in the blood. This comes as a result of decreased liver function or permanent liver damage. Alcohol and jaundice are not always related, however, since jaundice can be a sign of several different health problems.

Damage to the liver as a result of alcohol consumption occurs in three stages: fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and finally cirrhosis of the liver. Fatty liver indicates that the liver is not fully metabolizing fats. It can be diagnosed by means of a liver function test, which measures the amount of non-metabolized fat in the blood. Jaundice is not generally seen at this phase of liver disease. Mild fatty liver is not dangerous, but if alcohol consumption is not decreased, it may lead to increasingly more harmful stages of liver disease.

The connection between alcohol and jaundice begins to be seen in the second stage of alcohol liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis. At this stage, the liver becomes inflamed as alcohol causes it to stop metabolizing fats, proteins or carbohydrates. This leads to a buildup of toxins, including bilirubin, in the bloodstream. Patients who experience jaundice or other symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis, including fever, abdominal swelling and loss of appetite, should see a doctor immediately. If all alcohol consumption is stopped, damage to the liver may still be reparable.

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If alcohol consumption continues, cirrhosis of the liver usually results. This condition causes the liver to harden as a result of scar tissue buildup. At this stage, alcohol and jaundice usually connect, as the liver's function continues to decrease. Damage due to cirrhosis is not reversible and is often fatal, although a liver transplant may be an option for some patients.

Although excessive consumption of alcohol and jaundice are often seen together, not all alcoholics develop jaundice. Genetics, age and gender all seem to play a role in the chances of developing liver problems as a result of heavy drinking. Women are more likely than men to sustain liver damage from alcohol. Some people's livers also seem to be genetically predisposed to alcohol-related problems, although the exact causes of this are not known as of 2011.

Furthermore, jaundice may come about from a number of types health problems that are not alcohol-related. Other types of hepatitis, which may be blood borne or food borne, can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes. Infections or blockages of the gallbladder and some types of malaria may also lead to yellow skin.

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Discuss this Article

ZipLine
Post 3

I don't drink alcohol at all and I developed jaundice briefly due to an infection. Thankfully, it wasn't permanent and I recovered. But my doctor did initially suspect an issue with my liver because of alcohol as others also mentioned. I guess alcohol and jaundice are seen together often.

fify
Post 2

@donasmrs-- I agree with you. The strange thing is that our liver is the one organ that has the greatest potential to recover. It constantly renews itself. Maybe that's why God felt that just one was enough, as opposed to two kidneys. But despite this, people still manage to destroy this organ through alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, liver transplant isn't an option for everyone and sometimes it's not successful. So we need to take care of our liver and keep it healthy.

donasmrs
Post 1

Like the article said, there are other possible causes of jaundice. But if someone has jaundice, a doctor will certainly ask about drinking habits. Someone who drinks daily and heavily probably has jaundice caused by alcohol induced liver damage.

Ideally though, people who like to drink should do themselves a favor and get a liver function test once a year to see how their liver is doing. Because by the time that jaundice develops, the liver is quite damaged. It would be best to diagnose the problem before this symptom, when it's only at the fatty liver stage. Then people will be more likely to recover completely as long as they quit drinking.

Or I guess the best

alternative is to stop drinking in the first place to prevent these complications. Unfortunately, not many people think ahead this way. I know someone who wasn't an alcoholic and still developed liver damage from alcohol. So everyone's body functions differently and some people are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol.

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