Every year on July 28, World Hepatitis Day is observed to raise awareness about viral hepatitis — which causes inflammation of the liver, leading to severe disease and also, liver cancer. According to worldhepatitisday.org, a person dies every 30 seconds from a hepatitis-related illness.

But, hepatitis not only causes liver inflammation, it is also a sign of infection or injury to your tissues. As such, “alcohol consumption over an extended period of time can result in alcoholic hepatitis,” according to Dr Rajesh Upadhayay, Senior Director, Gastroenterology, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi.

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He added that a person diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis must stop drinking. “Continued alcohol consumption increases the risk of significant liver damage.”

Symptoms

According to Dr Upadhayay, you might not have any symptoms if you have moderate or early alcoholic hepatitis. As the condition worsens, you can start to experience the following symptoms:

*Enlarged or a swollen liver
*Jaundice
*Fatigue and weakness
*Loss of appetite
*Nausea and vomiting
*Abdominal soreness
*Low-grade fever
*Behavioural changes
*Increased bleeding tendency
*Kidney dysfunction

Avoiding alcohol is the most effective strategy to prevent alcoholic hepatitis (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Causes

While it is primarily caused by “heavy drinking over a long period of time”, other factors such as malnutrition and other hepatitis types can also lead to alcoholic hepatitis.

Prevention

Here are some ways you can prevent alcoholic hepatitis, according to the expert.

*Avoiding alcohol is the most effective strategy to prevent alcoholic hepatitis.
*Alcoholic hepatitis can also be prevented by protecting yourself from hepatitis B and C.
*It is always recommended to live a healthy life by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and alcohol.

Is it reversible?

If you have mild alcoholic hepatitis, it is usually reversible, Dr Upadhayay said. “However, it is typically irreversible if it progresses to the point of liver cirrhosis and the condition worsens. Those who don’t stop consuming alcohol even at this stage will eventually develop cirrhosis and liver failure,” he added.

“People who stop consuming alcohol after being diagnosed exhibit significant improvement after six to twelve months. Milder cases frequently turn out good. Over the following years, more severe cases may continue to show a slow improvement,” he said.

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