Early signs of alcohol-related fatty liver disease – symptoms can be vague

The liver has a magnificent capability to heal itself, but there does come a point where its self-generating ability is compromised.

Over time, alcohol-related liver disease can progressively get worse, but would you know if your organ is affected?

Alcohol-related liver disease is fairly common in the UK, the NHS confirms.

“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 adds.

There can be “early symptoms” of the condition, which may be falsely attributed to numerous ailments.

These “vague” symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain (stomach ache)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling generally unwell.

As the liver becomes more damaged, there can be more telling signs, such as:

  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet caused by a build-up of fluid
  • Swelling in your abdomen caused by a build-up of fluid known as ascites
  • A high temperature and shivering attacks
  • Very itchy skin
  • Hair loss
  • Unusually curved fingertips and nails
  • Blotchy red palms
  • Significant weight loss
  • Weakness and muscle wasting
  • Confusion and memory problems, trouble sleeping and changes in your personality caused by a build-up of toxins in the brain
  • Passing black, tarry poo and vomiting blood as a result of internal bleeding
  • A tendency to bleed and bruise more easily, such as frequent nosebleeds and Bleeding gums
  • Increased sensitivity to alcohol and drugs because the liver cannot process them.

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The health body adds: “If you misuse alcohol, you may have liver damage, even though you have none of the symptoms above.”

People are recommended to not exceed 14 units of alcohol per week and to have several alcohol-free days during the week.

If you find that you are experiencing signs of alcohol-related liver disease, do contact your doctor.

Without treatment, a damaged liver can lead to portal hypertension, which is “potentially serious”.

There can be many complications that occur due to a scarred liver, as the organ carries out numerous functions in the body.

From fighting infections to regulating blood sugar levels, a good, functioning liver is needed to keep you alive.

The CAGE test

If you have answered yes to any of the following questions, you might be abusing alcohol.

  • Have you ever thought you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticising your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever drunk an “eye-opener”, which means: have you ever drunk alcohol first thing in the morning to get over a hangover and steady your nerves?

Alcohol support is available on Drinkline 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).

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