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Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol

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Adults can develop hepatitis from drinking alcohol; the condition is fairly “common” in the UK, the NHS certified. “Many people do not realise they have it,” the national health body pointed out. “This is because it does not usually cause any symptoms, although it can cause sudden jaundice and liver failure in some people.”

Alcohol-related liver disease is not synonymous with alcohol dependency issues.

In fact, the British Liver Trust cautioned that drinking more than 14 units weekly can easily put you at risk of the condition.

Alcohol units

  • Single shot of spirits – one unit
  • Alcopop – 1.5 units
  • 125ml glass of wine – 1.5 units
  • Can of beer, ale, lager or cider (440ml) – two units
  • 175ml wine (12 percent ABV) – 2.1 units
  • Pint of beer, ale, lager or cider (560ml) – three units
  • 250ml of wine (12 percent ABV) – three units
  • A bottle of wine – nine units

There are numerous stages of alcohol-related liver disease; starting with drinking more than four units per day leading to fat building up in the liver.

“Your liver breaks down alcohol, but some of the by-products are toxic and damage your liver, clotrimazole on your face ” the charity warned.

At this stage, if you take a break from drinking – whether it’s for a few months or years – the liver can recover.

The next stage is alcohol-related hepatitis, which is “very serious”, with a third of heavy drinkers likely to have the condition.

This could result from weeks and months of drinking, but it can also occur if you binge drink, which “can result in liver failure and death”.

Cirrhosis is the most serious stage of alcohol-related liver damage, which is when the liver has lots of severe scarring.

“Up to one in every five heavy drinkers will develop cirrhosis,” the British Liver Trust added.

For some people, they can experience early symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease. These symptoms might include:

  • An aching feeling or discomfort on the upper right side of your tummy (where your liver is)
  • Little or no appetite
  • An overwhelming sense of tiredness (fatigue)
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia).

As the liver struggles to function, more serious symptoms can develop that require immediate medical attention.

Tell a doctor “straight away” if you experience:

  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Tummy (abdominal) pains over the liver area
  • Itching
  • Losing a lot of weight for no reason
  • Weakness and wasting of your muscles
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet caused by a build-up of fluid
  • Swelling in your tummy caused by a build-up of fluid
  • A tendency to bleed and bruise more easily, such as frequent nosebleeds and bleeding gums
  • Periods of confusion, forgetting things, mood changes or poor judgement.

Depending on which stage of alcohol-related liver disease you might have, by not drinking alcohol any more and having a healthy diet, the liver has the best chance of recovery.

However, if the condition is more advanced, your life could be on the line if you don’t stop drinking.

If you would like support to change your drinking habits, you can contact Drinkline on 0300 123 1110, weekdays 9am to 8pm, and weekends 11am to 4pm.

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