Is It Painful To Die From Liver Failure Due To Alcoholism?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on August 2, 2023

Thousands of people lose their lives annually to alcoholism, as it is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. End-stage alcoholism commonly includes liver failure, which may be extremely painful to endure.

Is Liver Failure Painful?

Treating end-stage alcoholism is complicated and difficult. There are many different symptoms and changes that occur across all four stages of alcoholism, including liver failure.

According to data from 2018, nearly half of the 83,517 deaths due to alcohol involved liver disease. About 48 percent of cirrhosis deaths were alcohol-related in 2013. One in three liver transplants was the result of liver disease due to alcohol.

Addiction treatment and the medications available to those living with addiction have been improving exponentially. It is important to seek treatment as soon as addiction is acknowledged.

The Four Stages of Alcoholism

The stages of alcoholism are broken down into experimental, social, instrumental and compulsive stages. They have specific markers and each stage progresses into the next.

Alcohol Withdrawal

For a person in end-stage alcoholism, going into alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. Some people experience seizures in the first few days of detox, which is why it is important to seek professional help when attempting to detox from alcohol.

Many treatment facilities offer a medically supervised detox program, and these programs are designed to make the person as comfortable as possible while detoxing, while medical staff is nearby to monitor a person’s health.

Alcoholic Liver Disease

There are three types of alcoholic liver disease, alcoholic fatty liver disease (or steatosis), alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. These diseases are indicative of a person who heavily abuses alcohol.

Additional Risk Factors for Alcoholic Liver Disease

When a person is a long term heavy or binge drinker, there are other contributing factors that put them at risk for developing alcoholic liver disease.

Contributing factors may include:

  • genetics
  • demographics
  • malnutrition
  • being overweight
  • previously diagnosed with hepatitis

It is important to know these additional risk factors, as they can increase the possibility of developing alcoholic liver disease.

Painful Symptoms Of Alcoholic Liver Disease

There are many symptoms of alcoholic liver disease, and as the disease progresses it becomes painful.

These symptoms progress and include:

  • jaundice
  • blood in the digestive tract
  • high blood pressure
  • confusion
  • swelling in lower extremities
  • fluid accumulating in the abdomen (ascites)
  • severe abdominal pain
  • variceal hemorrhage
  • hepatic encephalopathy
  • enlarged spleen
  • kidney failure
  • liver failure
  • death

As alcoholic liver disease progresses, the liver becomes unable to function properly and blood flow is compromised. Ascites may occur at this stage.

The accumulation of fluid makes it difficult to breath, and is incredibly painful and uncomfortable. Kidney failure occurs and eventually death due to organ failure.

Liver failure due to alcoholism is extremely painful, as the body shuts down slowly, and the complications from alcohol liver disease can be all-encompassing.

It is important that a person battling long-term alcoholism understands that seeking alcohol use disorder treatment can help them to stop drinking. While some of the effects of alcohol abuse are irreversible, there is a chance that becoming sober may help heal some of the damage.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on August 2, 2023


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