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April Wake Up Call: Alcoholic Liver Disease Related to Fatty Liver Diseases

April 14, 2020


This April, during National Alcohol Awareness Month, Echosens joins other leading stakeholders in calling for increased vigilance regarding early detection of liver disease.

The month of April is National Alcohol Awareness Month in America, and an excellent time to raise awareness about alcohol addiction, its causes, treatments and impact on overall health.

Echosens is taking this time to highlight the growing issue of fatty liver diseases, both from chronic alcohol consumption  (ALD), as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is related to a build-up of extra fat in liver cells that is caused by lifestyle and dietary choices.  Together, NAFLD and ALD are among the most frequent causes of chronic liver disease in the United States and together represent the leading indications for liver transplant.

ALD represents a broad spectrum of disorders ranging from simple steatosis to steatohepatitis and cirrhosis. Clinically, patients can be asymptomatic or present with acute severe alcoholic hepatitis (AH) with and without cirrhosis.

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a more severe form of NAFLD as shown in individuals with elevated liver enzymes but without a history of alcohol consumption.

Understanding ALD

The prevalence of ALD is difficult to define because it is influenced by many factors, including predilection to alcohol abuse, gender, availability of alcohol, social acceptability of alcohol use and concomitant hepatotoxic insults.

In the United States, it is estimated that 67.3% of the population consumes alcohol and that 7.4% of the population meets the criteria for alcohol abuse. Men are more likely to develop ALD than women because men consume more alcohol. However, women are more susceptible to alcohol hepatotoxicity and have twice the relative risk of ALD and cirrhosis compared with men. Elevated body mass index is also a risk factor in ALD, as well as NAFLD.

ALD is the eighth most common cause of mortality in the United States and the second leading cause of mortality among all gastrointestinal diseases.

Did You Know?

 The liver performs 500 functions, including removing toxins from the blood, creating bile to digest food, making clotting factors to control bleeding and helping our bodies fight infection. The liver also processes alcohol and can only handle a small amount at one time.

If you drink too much alcohol, the result is:

  • Extra fat build-up in the liver (fatty liver)
  • Inflammation of liver tissue (alcoholic hepatitis)
  • Scar tissue of the liver (cirrhosis), which is usually permanent
  • Liver cancer

Approximately 88,000 Americans die each year due to drinking too much alcohol. Your age, weight, gender and overall health affect how your body can handle alcohol, so it can be difficult to know how much alcohol is safe for everyone.

Screening Liver Fibrosis in Heavy Drinkers

Systematic screening for liver fibrosis in heavy-drinking patients is a challenge, but a recent  study showed promising results from FibroScan, a non-invasive technology that quickly provides a quantitative assessment of liver stiffness and liver fat at the point of care.

Researchers used FibroScan for non-invasive diagnosis of asymptomatic liver fibrosis in alcohol abuse patients to determine diagnostic liver stiffness cut-off values and to compare performance of FibroScan with seven non-invasive laboratory tests. They concluded that FibroScan is effective for assessing liver fibrosis in alcoholic patients and that instant screening of liver fibrosis in heavy drinkers is feasible without liver biopsy.

FibroScan makes it possible to quickly and non-invasively combat liver disease when caught early. Designed as a portable, point-of-care tool, FibroScan can be operated by a medical assistant and interpreted by a healthcare professional.

This April, get involved by limiting alcohol consumption, encouraging friends and family to discuss alcohol abuse and supporting healthcare professionals who work with patients with a history of alcohol abuse.

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