Fatty liver disease symptoms: Signs of liver damage from excess alcohol intake
Billy Connolly discusses his struggles with alcoholism
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The British Liver Trust says: “You don’t have to be addicted to alcohol to develop the condition, regularly drinking over the guideline amounts can put you at risk.” It explains there are several stages of alcohol-related liver disease. Cirrhosis, the most serious stage of liver disease, usually takes many years to develop. The NHS advises that if you regularly drink alcohol to excess, tell your GP so they can check if your liver is damaged.
The Trust says alcohol consumption is the most common cause of liver disease in the UK, accounting for six in 10 cases of liver disease.
Up to one in five people in the UK drink alcohol in a way that could harm their liver, it explains.
The Trust says: “Generally, the more alcohol you drink above the recommended limits, the higher your risk of developing alcohol-related liver disease. It can make other types of liver disease worse too.”
It warns: “Heavy drinking even on a few days in the week can cause alcohol-related liver disease. It’s a lot easier to overdrink than many people realise, putting vast numbers of us in danger of alcohol-related illnesses.”
The Trust adds: “It’s really important to be totally honest about how much and how often you drink alcohol and to find out whether your drinking has caused harm.
“Knowing about liver damage at an early stage allows you to make decisions that will help your liver to recover.”
The NHS says symptoms if ARLD can include:
- Feeling sick
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Swelling in the ankles and tummy
- Confusion or drowsiness
- Vomiting blood or passing blood in your stools.
Vomiting blood or passing blood in your stools.
The British Liver Trust says you might only find out you have alcohol-related liver disease during tests for other health problems.
It explains: “If your doctor thinks you have any form of liver disease they will try to find out what is causing it and how damaged your liver is.
“This will include special blood tests and scans which are usually carried out at a hospital.”
If your symptoms or blood tests suggest alcohol-related liver disease you might need further tests to measure how scarred your liver has become, it adds.
It is estimated that alcohol-related fatty liver disease develops in 90 percent of people who drink more than 40g of alcohol, or four units, per day, according to Drinkaware.
The organisation notes that is roughly the equivalent of two medium (175ml) glasses of 12 percent ABV wine, or less than two pints of regular strength (four percent ABV) beer.
The organisation says: “Drinking within the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines (drinking no more than 14 units a week for both men and women) will help keep your risk of developing alcohol-related liver disease low and benefit your overall health.
“Reducing the amount you drink, ideally to zero, can help reverse damage, and reduce the risk of disease progression, for those with early-stage alcohol-related liver disease.”
The NHS says the liver is very resilient and capable of regenerating itself, but each time your liver filters alcohol, some of the liver cells die.
It adds: “The liver can develop new cells, but prolonged alcohol misuse (drinking too much) over many years can reduce its ability to regenerate. This can result in serious and permanent damage to your liver.”
The health body states: “ARLD is very common in the UK. The number of people with the condition has been increasing over the last few decades as a result of increasing levels of alcohol misuse.”
It says there are two ways alcohol misuse (drinking too much) can cause ARLD. These are:
- Drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time (binge drinking) can cause fatty liver disease and, less commonly, alcoholic hepatitis
Drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol over many years can cause hepatitis and cirrhosis, the more serious types of ARLD.
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