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Signs of Liver Problems From Alcohol

author image Anna Aronson
Anna Aronson began working as a journalist in 2000 and spent six years at suburban Chicago newspapers before pursuing freelance work. She enjoys writing about health care topics, in particular obstetrics, pediatrics and nutrition. She received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and is now studying for a Master of Science in medicine degree to become a physician's assistant.
Signs of Liver Problems From Alcohol
Glass of whiskey on a bar Photo Credit: puchkovo48/iStock/Getty Images

Alcohol abuse has many serious effects on a person's health, but the liver often bears the brunt of the damage. The liver is responsible for filtering alcohol and other toxins from the bloodstream. In people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol, the liver can be damaged because of the heavy workload. Alcohol abuse can cause three types of liver disease: fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis, the most serious form. Alcoholic liver disease causes more than 13,000 deaths a year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women are more likely than men to have alcohol-related liver damage.

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Abdominal Symptoms

People with alcohol-induced liver disease may experience abdominal pain and tenderness and may also notice they are retaining fluid in the abdominal cavity. Nausea may also develop, and the liver and spleen can become enlarged. Loss of appetite is common, along with excessive thirst and a dry mouth. Some people with alcoholic liver disease may also vomit blood or have vomit that looks like coffee grounds, and in some cases people have black, tarry or bloody stools.

Skin Changes

Jaundice, a condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow, is another common sign of alcoholic liver disease. Skin that is abnormally pale or dark can also be a symptom, as can redness, especially on the hands and feet, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Behavioral Symptoms

A person who has developed alcoholic liver disease may also begin acting differently. For example, you may notice mental confusion, including memory loss and hallucinations; agitation; mood or personality changes; difficulty concentrating or paying attention; and impaired judgment.

Weight Gain

People with liver disease caused by alcohol abuse may also gain weight or appear swollen, according to the National Institutes of Health. This develops because the body is retaining fluid. In many cases, weight gain develops even in people whose appetite has decreased because of the condition.


Fatigue can also be a sign of alcoholic liver disease. Some people also are noticeably sluggish or lethargic in their movements.

Breast Development

Men whose liver has been damaged by alcohol abuse may begin to develop breasts as a result of the condition.

Rapid Heart Rate

A rapid heart rate can develop in people with liver damage caused by drinking. This may be especially noticeable when standing up from sitting or lying down.

Dry Mouth

Alcoholic liver disease can also cause a dry mouth. Additionally, some people develop excessive thirst as a result of the condition.

Spider Veins

Noticeable spider veins can develop on the legs and elsewhere in people with alcoholic liver disease, according to the University of Virginia Health System.


Some alcohol abusers who have developed liver damage may experience light-headedness or fainting spells. This can be especially prevalent when standing up.

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