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"Do all alcoholics get cirrhosis?"


My dad was an alcoholic but now he has been sober for a long time. Will he get cirrhosis? Do all alcoholics get cirrhosis? How can he get his liver checked by his doctor?


Not all alcoholics will go on to develop cirrhosis, which is a condition characterized by a shrunken and nodular liver involving replacement of normal liver tissue with fibrosis and scar tissue. Studies suggest that approximately 10 to 20 percent of people with significant daily alcohol intake for more than a decade will ultimately develop cirrhosis. Cessation of alcohol use is the best way to avoid further liver damage in these instances.

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Your father's liver can be evaluated by his primary care physician in a variety of ways. A thorough history can help determine your father's risk factors for liver disease. Physical exam can be used to detect signs of end-stage liver disease, such as the presence of fluid in the abdomen (ie, ascites), spider veins, reddened palms, an enlarged spleen, and yellowing of the skin (called jaundice). Blood tests can be used to measure liver function (albumin, INR, bilirubin) and detect the presence of any abnormalities of the blood and platelet counts that can be seen with cirrhosis (such as low platelets and an anemia characterized by enlarged red blood cells). Ultrasound imaging can be used to determine the size and texture of the liver if indicated. If you or your father have any concerns about his health, you should seek out the guidance of his primary care physician.

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