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Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease

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About alcohol-associated liver disease

for Veterans and the Public

About Alcohol-Associated Liver Disease - Alcoholic Liver Disease for Patients

Alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD) is a common form of liver disease in the United States. People get ALD by drinking moderate to large amounts of alcohol for months to years. It doesn't matter whether the alcohol is hard liquor, beer, or wine. Any type of alcohol can cause liver damage, leading to cirrhosis of the liver, and even liver cancer.

So how much alcohol is too much? It depends on whether you're a man or a woman. Studies have shown that women experience liver disease at lower levels of alcohol intake than men.

Many liver specialists would agree that liver disease is likely at these levels:

  • For women: 2 or more units of alcohol on a regular basis
  • For men: 3 or more units of alcohol on a regular basis
  • One unit of an alcoholic beverage contains 10 grams of alcohol. A unit is roughly equivalent to: one 12-ounce bottle of beer (5% alcohol); one 4-ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol); or one 1-ounce shot of hard liquor (40% alcohol).

Some people will experience liver damage even if they drink much less.

In a person with chronic liver disease (such as hepatitis B or C or fatty liver disease), alcohol causes even more damage than it would in people without those liver diseases. At present, no one knows if there is a safe level of alcohol for people with are already living with liver disease.

The good news is that the livers of heavy drinkers can improve if they stop drinking entirely. This may be a very difficult thing for you to do.

There are resources to help you stop. If you need support, please talk to your provider or contact a Substance Use Disorder program.