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Question : A good friend was just diagnosed with what the hospital called "alcoholic hepatitis." What category of hepatitis does this fall under? Is it contagious? If she stops drinking alcohol will this condition go away or has irreversible damage been done to...
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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December 06, 2012
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A:

Hepatitis is the general term for inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by infection, drugs or toxins. When most people hear the diagnosis “hepatitis”, they think of the hepatitis related to infection from a virus, such as hepatitis A, B or hepatitis C.

Alcoholic hepatitis is different because it is not infectious or contagious. Alcohol acts like a toxin when it causes the liver to be inflamed.

Alcoholic hepatitis can cause the same symptoms as other types of hepatitis. For instance, nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases, it causes jaundice, confusion and liver failure.

Most people that develop alcoholic hepatitis are heavy drinkers. But not everyone. Some people are just more sensitive to alcohol. They might get the condition by only drinking a few per day.

To treat alcoholic hepatitis, the person must stop drinking entirely. It’s also important to eat a balanced diet. And take in adequate minerals and vitamins.

In mild cases, inflammation usually calms down within a few days to a few weeks. In more severe cases, people can develop liver failure either from a severe episode or from many repeated episodes.

Your friend must stop all alcohol use forever.

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