Six ‘Early’ Signs Your Liver Is Damaged From Drinking Too Much

Drinking alcohol in excess of the weekly low-risk drinking recommendations in the UK (14 units per week) can lead to accumulation of fat in the liver. The liver, which is responsible for more than 500 different functions of the body, has the ability to heal itself. However, the healing ability of the liver can only begin when a person abstains from alcohol.

Alcohol Change UK warns that the presence of fatty liver “is an indicator that more irreversible damage may occur in the future.”

The NHS points to “early symptoms” of alcoholic liver disease that are “often quite vague”.

You may have liver damage if you experience “abdominal pain.”

People with alcohol-induced liver damage may also suffer from fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea.

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The condition can make a person feel “generally ill” and the person may lose their appetite.

These symptoms are usually associated with the progression of an alcohol-related liver disease known as alcoholic hepatitis.

“About a third of people with fatty liver will develop alcoholic hepatitis,” says Alcohol Change UK.

Watch out for vomiting and yellowing of the skin (jaundice), which can be a warning of possible liver failure.

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In the UK, about 7,700 people die every year due to alcohol-related liver disease.

Continuous damage to the liver will result in the organ being unable to heal itself; instead, scar tissue develops.

“There is no cure for cirrhosis of the liver, but those who stop drinking completely have a much better chance of survival,” adds the charity.

Signs of progressive alcohol-related liver disease include:

  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet due to fluid buildup (oedema)
  • Swelling of the abdomen due to fluid accumulation, known as ascites.
  • High temperature (fever) and chills
  • Very itchy skin
  • Hair loss
  • Unusually curved fingertips and nails (fingers)
  • Spotted red palms
  • Significant weight loss
  • Weakness and wasting of muscles
  • Confusion and memory problems, sleep problems (insomnia) and personality changes due to the accumulation of toxins in the brain.
  • Vomiting blood and black, tarry stools due to internal bleeding
  • Tendency to bleed more easily and bruise, such as frequent nosebleeds and bleeding gums
  • Hypersensitivity to alcohol and drugs (because the liver cannot process them).

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Are you drinking too much?

The National Health Service recommends that you honestly answer the following questions:

  1. Have you ever thought that you should cut down on your alcohol consumption?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a “revelation” drink, which means: have you ever had alcohol first thing in the morning to get rid of a hangover and calm your nerves?

“If you answer yes to one or more of the above questions, you may have a drinking problem and it is recommended that you see a general practitioner,” the NHS notes.

People who experience symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease are also advised to make an appointment with their GP.

Drinkline is a free national alcohol helpline available on 0300 123 1110.

The hotline, which is open to people concerned about their own or others’ drinking, is available weekdays from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm; weekends from 11:00 to 16:00.

Additional support services include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al-Anon Family Groups, We Are With You, Adfam, and SMART Recovery.

Regular alcohol consumption has been linked to cancer, heart disease, brain damage, and liver disease.

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