Australians are known to love a drink. We drink to celebrate and we drink to commiserate. We have a couple after work on Friday, and a quiet one over dinner mid week, but few of us concern ourselves with alcohol and liver disease until it’s too late.
Recent research by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education found that 82% of Australians drink and almost 50% (5.7 million) drink to get drunk. While it can be harmless fun, more often than not excessive drinking leads to harm.
In the short term, there’s the hangover to deal with – the headache, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, the hazy memories of the night before and an empty wallet.
Long-term or chronic excessive heavy drinking can have devastating effects on our social, mental and physical health.
Alcohol abuse is associated with depression, increased physical violence, throat and mouth cancers, breast cancer, kidney and pancreatic problems, heart disease and stroke, and liver disease.
Alcohol and Liver Disease From Heavy Drinking
In short, alcohol and the liver don’t mix. Like all organs in our body, the liver functions best when we look after it with a healthy balanced diet (including plenty of water) and exercise. Drink too much alcohol and your liver will struggle to do its job (i.e., remove harmful toxins from the body, protect against disease, store energy and make protein).
Excessive alcohol can cause fat to build up in the liver leading to a condition called fatty liver disease or steatosis. This is the most common liver disorder resulting from excessive heavy drinking.
Too much fat in the liver can cause the liver cells to become enlarged and inflamed. An inflamed liver from alcohol is known as alcoholic hepatitis – a potentially fatal disease.
If you continue to drink alcohol the inflammation can eventually lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis occurs when scar tissue starts to replace the healthy liver tissue. Because there is no cure for cirrhosis, treatment aims to slow progress.
Fatty liver disease and alcoholic hepatitis can be cured if you stop drinking. However, even after you stop drinking, cirrhosis can still develop.
Symptoms of liver disease can include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye), dark urine, nausea and vomiting, weight loss and pain in the upper right side.
LiverScan – Alcohol Liver Test
If you are concerned about your liver, an alcohol liver test with LiverScan can provide answers.
A liver scan is a pain-free, non-invasive procedure used to measure the scar tissue in the liver and fatty liver (steatosis). The results are immediate and can help doctors decide whether treatment is required and what treatment is best.
Moonee Valley Specialist Centre has the only privately owned liver scan machine in Victoria. To find out more or book an appointment, please contact us on 03 9372 0372.
How much alcohol is safe to drink?
If you are concerned about alcohol and liver disease, to help you make an informed decision about how much you drink, the National Health and Medical Research Council has developed the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from drinking alcohol.
Love your liver … it’s the only one you’ve got.