Hello everyone! Here is my story. 41 y.o. male, very heavy drinker for past 20 years. About six months ago I started itching all over while still drinking heavily. I then proceeded to start to feel extremely fatigued and nauseous all the time with pain under my left rib (probably enlarged spleen). I continued drinking for another week until I woke up one morning with swollen ankles. After looking some things up on the net, I came to to the conclusion that based on these symptoms I was doing serious damage to my liver due to drinking.
I quit drinking 100 days ago today and have been to over 100 AA meetings in that time period, have a sponser, and am currently on step 4 of the twelve steps and am determined NEVER to drink again.
Since I stopped drinking, all the above symptoms went away, but I noticed a week or so after I stopped drinking a very mild yellow hue to my eyes that nobody else has commented on and stools that vary from normal to very light in color. Additionally, my ankles now feel soar, as if mild arthritis, but no more swelling (edema) since I stopped drinking. I know I should see a doctor, but I have no health insurance. I have applied through a state program and expect to be covered in a few weeks and then will see a doctor.
My question - given my symptoms and given that I have stopped drinking and won't ever drink again (I now consider alcohol to be a poison to my body), does anybody have past similar experience on what my prognosis could be? I've read on the net I should be fine. I've also read it will progress to end stage in 3-5 years even without drinking. I know everybody is different and you can't really tell without bloodwork, ultrasound, etc., but I am curious as to what others may have experienced with these symptoms. My guess is I have alcoholic hepatitis or compensated class A cirrhosis or both and the cause (alcohol) has been eliminated. Again, only current symptoms are very mildly yellow eyes and occasional light stools (this no doubt is a high, but an excessibely high, bilirubin level) with soar ankles. These are the only symptoms - no ascites, enceph, varices, red palms, spyder verns, yellow skin, current edema or other cirrhosis symptoms. Thanks!
The Following User Says Thank You to andy19096 For This Useful Post: Michael Epp (06-20-2012)
It all depends on what a biopsy says and how much damage is done to the liver. If alcohol was the cause and now that's eliminated that should stop the progression of the disease. I've read where people can live for many, many years with only 70% liver function or less.
I hope all turns out well for you. Congratualtions on your 101 day of sobriety!
My husband was diagnosed with Cirrhosis 3 years ago, after developing ascites. His only symptom before that was bruising of the skin. Yearly blood tests revealed no problem. He drank sporadically over a 30 year period - but I never saw him enebriated. We get conflicting information from Dr.'s. One told us that only 50% of patients survive more than 5 years after diagnosis. Another said he had observed patients living with this condition for 20+ years. His current gastro Dr. refers to his having "advanced liver disease", while another says that his sonogram shows only "moderate scarring." He has had one episode of hepatic encelop. He has been placed on a liver transplant list, but his "meld" scores do not place him anyway near serious consideration for transplantation. We have been told that the oldest patient Un. of Penna. has transplanted was 75.
We have been told that once the scarring has occurred, deterioration of the liver continues, even if the irritant is removed. Continued irritation greatly hastens the deterioration of the liver. I know that this is not the most encouraging news, but I pass it along for what is worth. I have concluded that the progress of this disease varies from person to person and that you can only take the best care of yourself that you can, with abstinence, proper diet (low fat and salt)and exercise to maintain muscle mass.
Thanks for the responses. Sorry to hear about your husband, WAC. No ascites for me and my understanding is that ascites is a development of quite advanced liver disease.
On the positive side for me, the slight yellow tinge in the eyes and the soar ankles have all but disappeared. The only possibly liver related sympom I have now is moderately light colored brown/tan stools. Otherwise I feel and look fine. I have been on a low sodium, heart healthy diet since I quit drinking and my B.P. went from 145/95 to 123/80 over the past three months since I started the healthy diet (borrowed a B.P. cuff my Dad had for some ailment a ways back).
Hopefully with my continued sobriety I will be fine. I have read of a genetic factor related to alcohol, cirrhosis and how it develops. Being adopted, that really is of no use to me. In a way, now that I feel fine and am not drinking, I almost don't want to see the doctor. If he tells me my liver is fine, it could be an excuse to drink down the road. If he tells me I will probably go end stage in X years, that would ruin the healthy ones I have until that point in my mind. Since I have no major symptoms, it would appear I'm already doing what a doctor would tell me to do anyway - not drink and eat right.
You should go see a docotor and be evaluated at the very least. Cirrhosis is a progressive disease. Some people can go there whole life without symptons until they are actually in liver failure. You liver damage was most likely to drinking and stopping that will help stop the progresssion depending on how much damage was actually done. There are other reasons to be concerned and to consider, portal hypertension is one. Some people don't die from liver failure but from complications caused by cirrhosis. Heart failure, portal hypertension, esophogal varices etc.
So, even though you want to rationalize, that your ok now because you stopped drinking, you may not be. If you go to a doctor and he's says you'll probably be fine if you don't ever drink again, then wipe your brow and be glad you caught it in time. But at the very least you owe yourself the truth.
I Don't doubt I have some rationalizing going on here, but what are the odds of having varices when I basically have no symptoms at this point? I know varices are often symptomless except for possible trouble swallowing, but what are the odds of having what I have read is more an end stage symptom in varices? Is it possible to be energetic, in good shape with healthy muscle mass and appetite, no current cirrhosis symptoms with previous minor ones that quickly went away when I stopped drinking and still have varices? I guess it is possible, but from what I have read it is a long shot. Should I not have ascites or jaundice or spider veins or red palms or fatigue, or loss of appetite or loss of sex drive or or loss of weight (I am a healthy weight) or some other cirrhosis symptoms to provide for an advanced sympom like varices?
Maybe I'm in denial, but I am doing what I have read a doctor would tell me to do anyway - eat a heart healthy, low sodium diet and not drink. I know the varices thing could be preventative with banding if they found them, and it may not be a perfect comparison, but many people who can have genetic tests that would tell if they will get a life ending disease with no cure before old age choose not to want to find out.
I have also read contradicting medical reports on the net. Some say stage A compensated cirrhosis will progress and some say it won't with causes that can be removed like alcohol (while decompensated stage B and C will progress no matter). There appears to be a fine line on catching it, and for all I know I don't have cirrhosis but rather HAD alcoholic hepatitis or pancreatitis. My present take is if I start to see cirrhosis sympoms again I will see a doc. Otherwise, I prefer not to know and take what I consider to be a minor risk of a bleed from varices. Before that were to happen, I would think I would notice other sympoms. Anybody had a bleed related to varices when they otherwise had felt fine and appeared perfectly healthy?
Varices can be very dangerous. One bleed can cause death. My wife who died of cirrhosis didn't show any symptoms of varices until a doctor did a scope and noticed them and banded them. This was very early on in her disease. At that time her bilirubim was elevated but she wasn't jaundiced. But anyway, you obviously have done research. Just be careful of self diagnosis, especially with liver damage.
By the way, my wife never lost weight, had a hearty appetite wasn't fatigued until liver failure, and never lost muscle mass nor ever had red palms. (that was noticable any way)
But believe me, I wish you the best of luck. But just think about getting a blood test to check your liver enzymes...for a base line. Then after six months the doc will check again, and you'll know for sure if your liver is healing.
I hope for you the best. And congratulations again on your sobriety. I know how difficult that can be.
Thanks for the advice, MAC. I will take in under serious consideration. Also, I am so sorry for your loss. Question, though. Your wife started with few symptoms and her liver disease obviously progessed to failure. If you don't mind me asking, what was the cause? Was it a cause that could be removed such as alcohol or was it something like Hep C which I read can be tricky to remove as an insult to the liver (another reason I guess to see the Doc - get tested for Hep C, though from my personal history the chances are VERY slim with no blood tranfusions, surgury, drug use, questionable sex partners or unsafe sex - I unfortunately just used acohol for years to self-medicate anxiety and depression).
The cause was alcohol (beer). She tried several times to quit but her longest stretch at any one time was about three months. It eventually led to her liver failure.
She wasn't a bad person or anything or weak even. In some things she was very strong willed. But when it came to alcohol, well...From the onset of her initial symptoms it took two years for her to go into liver failure. I have no doubt in my mind if she would have quit at the first onset of symptoms she would probably be here today.
I just wanted to say for the record that I do think it is wrong for you to not atleast go to the ER and get your blood taken (or however you would get this done w/o insureance). Liver issues commonly don't have many symptoms and the blood tests will give a more accurate picture - or atleast give you a better understanding. It would suck to not do this very basic first step and find out all your 'netting was for not. You have been experiencing significant liver symptoms and this should not be taken as something that will just "go away". You may need additional help besides diet.
Please see someone. Consider this your virtual kick in the pants!
I will be getting insurance soon and then I will get a physical, but I won't lie that I am more than a little scared even though I have no symptoms.
Again, sorry for your loss, MAC. Alcohol can have amazingly addictive qualities. Since I got some liver symptoms I stopped cold and I have no desire to drink. I'm now scared sober. I think I could still stop without AA due to what I know alcohol did to harm me. I'm doing AA as an insurance policy (but also taking it seriously) and I have met some great people there. I just know I can never drink again. C'est la vie.
For me, I don't think I am your "normal" alcoholic who has the classic disease of alcoholism (and I view it as a disease no different than hypertension or diabetes - not a weakness or personality flaw), even though I do consider myself to be a recovering alcoholic. I have no addictive qualities in me outside of a history of heavy drinking, and then being able to stop with relative ease when I realized I was doing harm to my body because of alcohol. I have suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depession since my late teens. I know why I drank - to self medicate. That being said, I have received some great help for the anxiety and depression lately (without drugs - therapy and a new depression treatment called TMS) and stopping drinking for me has not been that hard, so in that way I am very fortunate as opposed to those who have so much trouble stopping drinking due to this terrible disease. It's kind of like how some people can stop smoking easier than others. It's a physical/chemistry thing depending on the person. I can only now hope I stopped drinking in time, and through what I have witnessed and heard at AA meetings, I feel deeply for those who struggle so hard to stay sober. Alcoholism is a terrible, terrible disease that is so misunderstood.
Be reassured, you always have a friend and support here if you need it.
I think you have had your "awakening". But be aware, the need for alcohol is powerful. Especially when you least expect it. I like how you related it to quitting smoking. That was right on!
My sister died last year from liver failure after battling alcohol for 4 years... she knew she had liver problems, but lived in denial.
I know that the cost of going to the ER or to a urgent care center is scary... it can cost quite a bundle, but if you are going to be getting subsidised health insurance then it may be retroactive for three months... contact them and see if it is and tell them that you need to be checked out. If nothing else you will have some blood tests and information at hand when you go to the Dr so that you can have a running start on your new and healthier life.
Keep with the AA, do the steps when they are right for you allowing yourself to experience each step on your own timeline... it is not a race and the first one to the end is not the winner... everyone that takes that last step is a winner.
If all that doesn't kill you makes you stronger then just call me SuperMan
It has been a year and a half since your post, i was wondering how things are going for you now. My brother in law was diagnosed with cirrohsis Nov 2006. At that time he had his first variceal bleed and nearly died. Since then he has had several episodes of bleeding. He has now developed ascites, is very jaundice and is loosing his muscle mass. The doctors have indicated there is nothing more they can do for him except to treat his symptoms. As of 2 weeks ago he is still using marijuana and drinking occasionally. Does anyone have suggestions what his life expectancy may be at this point???
I cant answer your question, but feel for you. My dad was DX almost 8 years ago with end stage cirrhosis. He has good days and bad days, and now we are fighting to keep his kidneys functioning normal. He is weak, swollen, and sometimes when his toxic levels go up....very confused. He has been in a coma several times but has come out of it, in my opinion because he has a great and caring doctor. I am worried we are close to the end.