Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) depend on whether or not alcoholic hepatitis will develop. In the early stages of alcoholic liver disease, there are no specific symptoms of anything wrong. However, if you look closely, you will find symptoms and signs that the body is not right.
For example, there will be mental signs and symptoms, such as lack of concentration, moodiness, depression, confusion at times, insomnia and fatigue. The consumption of alcohol depletes the body of nutrients, especially B vitamins and magnesium, which all cause these types of symptoms. Magnesium deficiency further causes muscle tremors – and in severe deficiency is responsible for the delirium tremens that occurs when an alcoholic tries to withdraw from the drink.
Alcoholism is also associated with a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency, which is called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency include memory loss, confabulation, confusion, lack of coordination, and vision disturbances.
These symptoms may be accompanied by blood sugar swings that cause irritability, hunger, cravings, nervousness, anger outbursts, dizziness, and shakiness. The blood sugar swings occur because alcoholic drinks are being substituted for food. There are no nutrients in alcoholic drinks so the body’s reserves of the nutrients gets used up. Without eating a healthy diet or taking nutritional supplements, the body starts dying of deficiency diseases. Fatty liver can be caused by nutritional deficiencies as well as alcoholic consumption.
The liver itself starts out with an accumulation of fat – called fatty liver – and then progresses to hepatitis. Not all alcoholics will get hepatitis; some will progress to the worst stage of cirrhosis.
Once hepatitis sets in, there’s an inflammation of the liver. Similar to fatty liver, there may not be very many symptoms in the beginning. But as the condition gets more advanced, the following symptoms may appear:
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stool
- Lack of libido
- Bruising easily
- Swelling in the legs, ankle and abdomen
- General poor health
- Enlarged liver
- Pain in the abdomen
The sad part about alcoholic liver disease is that when it progresses to a certain point, there may not be a way to reverse the condition. A liver transplant may be needed in order for the patient to survive.