Physicians at the University of Chicago Medicine Center for Liver Diseases offer the latest innovative treatments for alcoholic liver disease, including liver transplantation for patients who may not have had this option in the past. Our liver transplant experts understand the complex medical and psychological needs of patients with alcoholic liver disease and work together with social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists to ensure you receive the highest level of personalized care and support.

What is Alcoholic Liver Disease?

Alcohol-induced liver disease is a term used to describe a liver that has been damaged by over-use of alcohol. It’s the liver’s job to break down alcohol, but if you consume more than your liver can process, you can seriously damage it. Patients can go through three stages of the disease:

  • The first step is the build-up of fat inside the liver cells. A fatty liver leads to an enlarged liver. It’s important not to confuse this with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, where patients have a build-up of fat in the liver without a history of alcohol use. Fat in the liver is usually reversible if you stop drinking.
  • Alcoholic hepatitis is a serious condition in which your liver becomes extremely inflamed, which can lead to multiple organs failing. If caught early enough, alcoholic hepatitis can be reversed if you permanently stop drinking alcohol.
  • Alcoholic cirrhosis is an advanced stage of liver disease that occurs when your liver tissue becomes scarred. As the scarring replaces healthy tissue, it becomes increasingly difficult for your liver to work properly. Abstinence can stop the progression of scarring and slow down the side effects, but cirrhosis cannot be reversed.

Treating Alcoholic Liver Disease

The most important part of treating alcoholic liver disease is to permanently stop all alcohol consumption. Your health care team can help you find programs to support you on this critical undertaking, including both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs at UChicago Medicine. Additionally, treatment for alcoholic liver disease may involve:

  • Taking medications to prevent your craving for alcohol
  • Eating healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Receiving a liver transplant

Frequently Asked Questions about Alcoholic Liver Disease

Dr. Fung and Dr. Charlton, co-directors of the transplant institute

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