Drinking alcohol in small amounts has many health benefits including preventing Alzheimer’s disease and kidney stones. However, like with anything else, too much of it can be damaging in more ways than one. One disease heavy drinkers are at risk of developing is alcoholic hepatitis.
Alcoholic hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver caused by heavy alcohol consumption over an extended period of time. The liver is the main source of alcohol breakdown in the body causing it to experience the most damage from heavy alcohol consumption. This can cause the liver to become inflamed, scarred, and fatty. This condition is triggered by binge drinking and continued alcohol use and can result in health problems such as cirrhosis, excessive bleeding and liver failure. About 35 percent of long-time heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis.
The link between Alcoholic Hepatitis and Hepatitis C
Although these are two separate conditions and you can’t get hepatitis C (HCV) from drinking alcohol, there is a link between them. These two conditions can coexist. HCV is more prevalent in people who have alcohol abuse disorder. This means excessive alcohol consumption can raise your risk of developing HCV. If you have HCV, drinking even a small amount of alcohol can worsen your condition and interfere with your treatment. Research from the 1990s found that people with alcohol abuse disorder had higher rates of HCV than the control group. This is the case for individuals that had no other risk factors as well. Drinking alcohol can also interfere with your HCV treatment and cause the virus to become resistant to medication.
Scientists are not sure why HCV is more common in alcohol drinkers, but they speculate that alcohol may make it easier for the virus to enter and remain inside the body.
A person with HCV will have an acute or short-term illness. Fifteen to 45 percent of HCV patients may recover on their own within six months while others can develop a chronic infection. Drinking alcohol can play a part in this because alcohol can suppress parts of the immune system allowing HCV to persist beyond the acute stage.
Another way alcohol can be damaging to someone with hepatitis C is through the elevated risk of developing liver scarring or cirrhosis. A normal HCV patient has a 20 percent risk of developing severe scarring or cirrhosis. However, a heavy drinker has 16 times the risk of someone with the virus who doesn’t drink. Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure or cancer.
While both conditions cause liver inflammation, there are some differences in the symptoms.
People who have hepatitis C may experience the following: