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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Alcoholic hepatitis (AH) is liver inflammation caused by heavy alcohol use. AH can develop if you binge drink or if you drink regularly or heavily over time. If you are at risk for AH, you may be able to prevent it from developing. Once your healthcare provider diagnoses AH, you will need to manage your condition.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You have trouble breathing.
- You vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
- You lose consciousness.
- You have dark or bloody bowel movements.
- You feel confused.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have a fever or chills.
- You have pain or swelling in your abdomen.
- You feel dizzy or lightheaded.
- You vomit several times in a row.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You feel more tired than usual.
- You lose weight without trying, lose your appetite, or feel too nauseated to eat.
- You have worsening yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.
- Your urine becomes very dark.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- Medicines may be given to reduce inflammation in your liver or help your liver function better. You may also be given medicine to reduce fluid retention.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
You may need ongoing tests to check your liver function. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Do not smoke:
Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage your AH. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
If you are at risk for AH, the following may help prevent it from developing:
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol can cause liver damage and other serious health problems. Ask your healthcare provider how much alcohol is safe for you to have each day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor. Do not drink alcohol between meals or replace meals with alcohol.
- Ask about medicines. Some medicines can cause liver damage if taken with alcohol. Ask your healthcare provider about all of the medicines you take, including pain relievers such as acetaminophen.
Protect yourself against hepatitis C:
Hepatitis C is a serious liver infection caused by a virus. Hepatitis C causes liver damage and makes it easier for you to develop AH. It also increases your risk for cirrhosis, especially if you continue to drink alcohol. Cirrhosis is a serious disease that causes scarring in your liver. Do not share needles if you inject drugs. Use a condom so you do not get hepatitis C during sex.
Ask about vaccines:
You may need vaccines to protect you against hepatitis A or B, pneumonia, or the flu. AH can increase your risk for infections.
Drink liquids as directed:
Your healthcare provider may recommend you drink more liquids to help your liver function or reduce fluid retention. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
Eat a variety of healthy foods:
Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy products. Your healthcare provider or dietitian can help you create meal plans to make sure you get enough calories and protein. It may be helpful to eat smaller meals throughout the day to prevent nausea and help your body absorb nutrition. Limit sodium (salt) to prevent or reduce fluid retention.
Take vitamins or minerals as directed:
Your healthcare provider may recommend vitamin B or other vitamins or minerals. Do not take any vitamins or minerals without talking with your healthcare provider. Too much iron can be dangerous to your liver.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.