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The Alcoholic Liver Disease Stages & Their Warning Signs

The Alcoholic Liver Disease Stages & Their Warning Signs

As a rehab center in Massachusetts, we have seen the lasting damage that alcohol can have on various aspects of a person’s life.

It can not only cause relationship issues or lead to run-ins with the law, but these beverages can also cause serious health problems that may even be fatal.

The 3 Stages of Alcoholic Liver Disease & Their Symptoms to Look For

The liver is responsible for filtering blood, protein creation, metabolizing drugs, and detoxing chemicals like alcohol.1 If this organ becomes damaged, these functions will not be efficient, which could mean serious trouble for the individual.

Excessive alcohol consumption over an extended amount of time may lead to alcoholic liver disease. In fact, almost 100% of alcoholics who consume at least 80 grams of alcohol (about 6 or 7 drinks) a day for over 10 years will develop liver disease.2 This disease is progressive as well, and the signs of alcoholic liver disease will become more prevalent and severe without treatment. The alcoholic liver disease stages include fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and liver cirrhosis.

1.     Fatty Liver Disease/Steatosis

The first stage of alcoholic liver disease is fatty liver or steatosis that is characterized by excessive fat inside liver cells and negatively impacts the efficiency of the liver. About 20% of alcoholics and heavy drinkers will reach this stage of liver disease from alcohol.3 Fortunately, this damage can be reversed if the person stops drinking.

Often, the only sign of fatty liver disease is an enlarged liver, so many people may not realize that they have a problem until the disease becomes more severe or they reach the next stage of alcoholic liver disease.

2.     Alcoholic Hepatitis

The second stage of liver disease from alcohol is alcoholic hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis leads to inflammation of the liver, degeneration of liver cells, and fibrosis or the development of excessive amounts of scar tissue in the liver. It is important that if you are diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis you stop drinking immediately as about half of severe cases are fatal and 40% of cases will progress into the next alcoholic liver disease stage.3 In most cases, some of the damage can be reversed if drinking is stopped. If you are struggling to quit on your own, a partial hospitalization program or other professional treatment program may be able to help and prevent you from reaching the next and more fatal stage of alcoholic liver disease.

Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Yellow tinted skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Fever


3.     Liver Cirrhosis

The last of the alcoholic liver disease stages is cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the build up of permanent scar tissue in the liver that interrupts regular liver function and can lead to liver failure. This stage of alcoholic liver damage is serious and can be fatal. While it is no longer reversible, drinking needs to stop immediately to keep the condition from getting any worse and to avoid fatalities. In the later stages of cirrhosis, the survival rate is about 60% for those who quit drinking but only 35% for those who don’t.3

Symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Redness in palms
  • Yellow tinted skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Abnormal changes in fingernails
  • Bleeding or bruising easily
  • Swelling in legs and feet (edema)
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy skin
  • Fluid accumulation in the stomach (ascites)
  • Mental confusion


Treatment for Liver Disease

If you start to experience any symptoms of liver disease or are found to meet any of the stages of alcoholic liver disease, the first thing you need to do is to stop drinking. Every time you have another drink, you could be putting your life at risk. Our alcohol rehab in the Boston area can help you with this process. Other treatment for alcoholic liver disease may include nutritional therapy, medication, and even a liver transplant depending on the severity and the liver disease stage. It is important to talk to a doctor immediately in order to develop a treatment plan.

Whether it is an addiction to drugs or alcohol, your health may be at stake.

Do not wait to get help for yourself or a loved one. Call Banyan Massachusetts today at 888-280-4763 to get started.



  1. WebMD - Picture of the Liver
  2. NCBI - Alcoholic liver disease
  3. NIH - The Epidemiology of Alcoholic Liver Disease

Related Reading: 

List of Diseases Caused by Alcohol

Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.