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Liver disease: alcohol and the liver

Alcohol consumption can be a major contributing factor in the development of liver damage; abstinence is the mainstay of treatment for alcoholic liver disease, but therapies such as thiamine also have a role

By Joyeta Das, DipClinPharm

Man drinking beer


Liver disease related to alcohol consumption fits into one of three stages — fatty liver (steatosis), alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Many factors can influence its development, including genetics and the environment. In general the risk of liver disease increases with the quantity of alcohol consumed and the duration of misuse.

Abstinence is the cornerstone of treatment for alcoholic liver disease; and treatment with thiamine can help to prevent Wernicke’s encephalopathy.

Patients with alcoholic hepatitis may benefit from treatment with corticosteroids or pentoxifylline, although the best treatment approach is subject to debate.

Complications of cirrhosis are treated as for patients with non-alcoholic liver disease. 

Joyeta Das is lead pharmacist for hepatology at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. 


Citation: Clinical Pharmacist URI: 11074367

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