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Alcoholic Liver Disease: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

What is the treatment? How is the treatment done? Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?) Who is not eligible for the treatment? Are there any side effects? What are the post-treatment guidelines? How long does it take to recover? What is the price of the treatment in India? Are the results of the treatment permanent? What are the alternatives to the treatment?

What is the treatment?

The best cure for liver cirrhosis is early detection. Regular checkups by a qualified physician can help in detecting the disease. These checkups are highly recommended to alcoholics, as they have the greatest risk of contracting the disease. So, if you are experiencing gastric issues, it is always better to visit a doctor instead of self-prescribing a medication.

In its earliest stages, alcoholic liver disease can be eradicated by simply abstaining from alcohol. This reduces further damage to the liver and helps heal the issues that are caused as a result of the disease.

In the more advanced stages, doctors may prescribe certain medications to the patient. However, the patient needs to alter his/her lifestyle for these medications to work. Alcohol abstinence along with reduced salt intake can further help with this process. The physician may prescribe diuretics to the patient in order to remove the excess fluids from the body.

In the final stage of alcoholic liver disease, physicians may schedule a liver transplant for the patient. This is an extreme measure and is only eligible for those who have lost most of the functions in their liver. In such cases, the liver cannot repair itself through medications and thus must be replaced.

How is the treatment done?

As soon as alcoholic liver disease is diagnosed, the doctor will ask the patient to completely stop drinking alcohols. This can be difficult for those with an addiction as they may go through withdrawal symptoms. To alleviate withdrawal symptoms, the physician may recommend an alcoholics anonymous group.

In case of advanced forms of the disease, doctors may ask the patient to be admitted to a hospital where the diet and medications can be controlled better. Alcohol rehabilitation programs can also be recommended. Medications alone cannot improve the condition, since the damage sustained by the liver is permanent. However, lifestyle changes ensure that the damage does not progress further.

In case of a liver transplant, the treatment may get a bit complicated. This usually involves finding the perfect donor, whose blood group and other profiles match with that of the patient. In such a case, the patient will need to be admitted to the hospital and once the healthy liver is located, he/she will undergo the transplant surgery. However, the treatment in such cases will continue even after the transplant has been completed successfully. Doctors will also prescribe medications to ensure that there is no issue with the new organ inside the body.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

The treatment for alcoholic liver disease is only suitable for those who have been diagnosed with liver cirrhosis as a result of alcohol abuse. The extent of cirrhosis might vary, but the cause for the damage should be due to excess intake of alcohol.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Individuals who do not suffer from liver cirrhosis are not eligible for the treatment.

Are there any side effects?

There are no known side effects of the treatment. However, some of the medication can interfere with other drugs that the patient might currently be on. So, it is better to inform the physician about the drugs that you may be taking currently.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Even after the initial course of treatment is completed, alcoholic liver disease patients must visit the doctor at regular intervals to ensure that they have not relapsed into the same condition. Moreover, patients need to abstain from alcohol even after they have been cured of the disease to avoid relapse.

How long does it take to recover?

In its earliest stages, the disease requires treatment and rehabilitation for around 6 months to 12 months, before it slowly regresses. Complete abstinence from alcohol for longer may improve the liver functioning further. However, if alcohol abuse continues, further treatment may be needed.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

While the cost of treating mild or moderate forms of alcoholic liver disease is not that high, liver transplant is quite expensive. Normally, the treatment costs anywhere between Rs 1 Lac to Rs. 1.5 Lacs. Liver transplant rates differ greatly from one hospital to the next.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

A patient can relapse into cirrhosis once they are completely cured. This can happen if the patient does not follow the lifestyle changes prescribed by the doctor. For instance, continuing to consume alcohol can lead to the patient once again contracting alcoholic liver disease. Diet changes along with post-treatment medications prescribed by doctors must also be followed to avoid relapse.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

An alternative treatment for alcoholic liver disease is to supplement SAMe to patients. SAMe is a believed to be a compound that keeps the liver healthy. It is produced naturally in the body, but it has been noticed that those suffering from liver disease have low SAMe levels in the body. While this is a form of alternate treatment, not enough evidence is present to clearly prove that SAMe supplementation helps cure the disease.

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