Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms
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“Be informed that excessive alcohol drinking for several years can result in toxin accumulation in the liver,” said Monika Wassermann, Medical Director at Olio Lusso. What’s worse, drinking too much alcohol also triggers a condition known as alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD).
Similarly to fatty liver disease, ARLD doesn’t cause many symptoms until it has advanced.
However, there are some warning signs that might crop up, with one symptom appearing in your daily life.
According to the British Liver Trust, one of the signs, pointing to liver disease, is confusion.
The charity penned that “periods of confusion, forgetting things, mood changes or poor judgement (brain fog)” could be telling.
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Ms Wassermann said: “Liver [damaged by alcohol] cannot properly clear unwanted material from the blood, which leads to toxins building up in the brain, thus the confusion.
“To spot the signs, you may notice your eyes whitening and the skin becoming yellow. Your legs and feet may swell.
“Furthermore, your abdomen may appear bigger due to fluid accumulation and the body temperature will rise despite feeling feverish sometimes.
“But I advise my clients that if they gradually reduce the intake and later stop drinking, the symptoms can reverse for the better.”
While confusion could ring the alarm bells, this sign isn’t the only telling of an alcohol-related liver disease.
According to the NHS, the condition could also cause symptoms, including:
- 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.
However, the condition doesn’t sadly cause many warning signs, according to the health service.
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That’s why it recommends telling your GP if you regularly drink excessive amounts of alcohol so they can check your liver.
How does alcohol-related liver disease occur?
While the liver has an amazing regenerating ability, drinking to excess can still cause damage.
Each time your liver has to filter alcohol, some of its cells die. Fortunately, the organ is able to develop new cells.
However, prolonged alcohol misuse over years can reduce this ability, resulting in serious and permanent damage.
There are three main stages of ARLD, with cirrhosis representing the most severe stage.
During this stage, your liver becomes significantly scarred.
What’s worse, the NHS notes that even this stage might not present any signs.
It adds: “It’s generally not reversible, but stopping drinking alcohol immediately can prevent further damage and significantly increase your life expectancy.”
To prevent ARLD, it’s crucial to stop drinking alcohol or at least to stick to the recommended limits.
Both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. These units should be spread over three days or more.
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