Underage drinking is a major concern in the UK, but in Scotland, it has reached epic proportions. And on the back of this, shock news has revealed that a seventeen-year-old girl has died from alcohol-related liver disease. There seems to be a worrying trend of female drinkers in Scotland being affected by alcohol-related conditions much earlier than male drinkers.
Hundreds of Scottish women below the age of forty have developed alcohol-related liver disease, and this issue is only increasing. Liver specialist and gastroenterologist at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Dr Mathis Heydtmann, said, â€œSome people are fed-up seeing people [staff members] because they have been told 100 times you need to stop drinking. It makes it difficult for people to be as empathetic as they were the first time.â€
He said that staff are becoming immune to the shock of seeing young females with liver disease because it happens so frequently.
Despite the fact that liver cirrhosis cases have fallen in Western Europe since the seventies, the numbers appear to have risen quite significantly in Scotland â€“ and in Glasgow in particular. Dr Heydtmann said, â€œWith the increase, GPs and other specialists have a resistance to referring patients to us because they know we will be flooded. Since I came to Scotland in 2007, the work has more than doubled.â€
Since 1991, the number of people in Scotland having been diagnosed with alcohol-related liver disease is more than 35,000.
How Alcohol Affects the Liver
The liver is most commonly affected by alcohol abuse, but liver damage caused by alcohol is usually reversible through abstinence. Unfortunately, there may be times when the damage is so severe that the liver continues to deteriorate even when the individual stops drinking.
There are a number of liver conditions that are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Alcoholic liver disease is probably the most common health problem that affects alcoholics. The liver is responsible for processing alcohol, but when a person drinks more than the liver can process, the organ will be damaged.
Fatty liver is something that most alcoholics will suffer with. The condition causes the liver to become enlarged, making it tender when pressed. Fatty liver is almost always reversible, but the length of time it takes for the liver to recover will depend on the severity of the alcohol abuse. It could recover within a few weeks, but it may take many months.
Another common problem is alcoholic hepatitis, but this is a more serious condition than fatty liver. The alcoholic may not notice any symptoms, but family and friends may notice that their addicted loved oneâ€™s skin has developed a yellow tinge. This is caused by a build-up of bilirubin in the blood.
However, those with alcoholic hepatitis may experience symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, chronic fatigue, and pain in the abdomen. Those who continue to abuse alcohol while suffering from alcoholic hepatitis may find their condition progresses to cirrhosis of the liver.
Cirrhosis of the liver is end-stage liver damage and often affects women much more quickly than men due to the way their bodiesâ€™ process alcohol. Sadly, there may be no warning signs that cirrhosis of the liver is present, but it can still be fatal. One in ten will die without ever experiencing any warning. Others may experience pain, fever, jaundice, vomiting and fatigue.
Recovering from Liver Damage
The best way to allow the liver to recover from any alcoholic damage is to abstain from drinking permanently. It is also a good idea to adopt a healthy nutritious diet. The survival rate for those with less severe forms of liver damage is quite high. Even those who have been drinking heavily for a while may find their liver recovers with abstinence.
- Girl, 17, dies of alcohol-linked liver disease as shock figures reveal rising number of women victims