Hello everybody, I am hoping to get so... - British Liver Trust

British Liver Trust

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Hello everybody, I am hoping to get some insight about varices.


My husband has been drinking heavily for about forty years and I am scared he is going to die due to his alcoholism. I have told him how I feel but he just says he is fine. He is not fine, i have watched his health decline especially in the last few years. He is not well. He is in denial, he has been told by the doctor five years ago when he was hospitilized with alcoholic hepatitis that he had to stop drinking. Needless to say he never did. He had an endoscopy done a few weeks ago and the doctor told us that my husband has varices that can possibly bleed. Doc wanted husband to get a liver biopy but he refused. Im wondering if he has cirrhosis of the liver cause i was reading about varices and it said that it occurs in people with cirrhosis. He is also very swollen in his stomach and short of breath. I dont know what to due cause we have two daughters and he just wont stop drinking and says he is fine. I dont know if he rellly thinks hes fine or just in a deep denial. Please give me some insight regarding varices.

15 Replies

Varices are indeed one of the side effects of cirrhosis, my hubby has non alcohol related/auto immune caused cirrhosis which is currently compensated but he has Portal Hypertension (blood can't get through the blood vessels of the liver) causing pressure to build in other smaller veins in the body especially those in the oesophagus i.e. oesophageal varices - my hubby was diagnosed in April last year after a major bleed and to date he has had 9 endoscopies and 29 veins banded. A bleed from a varices is very serious and very life threatening, hubby had some blood in his bowel motions for some time before he vomited a huge amount of blood and spent 3 weeks in hospital where it was discovered that he had cirrhosis (we didn't even know he was ill, some of the other symptoms certainly but we put it down to depression, never thought of liver ill health as hubby tee-total). Hubby had a liver biopsy to confirm cirrhosis diagnosis and background cause , has regular ultra sound scans, regular blood tests and is now on the case load of the liver transplant team although he is not yet a candidate for transplant.

Sad to say it does sound like your hubby is showing some signs of his alcoholic hepatitis having gone on to possibly damage his liver ie. scarring of liver/cirrhosis. His swollen tummy and shortness of breath could also be signs of fluid build up called ascites which can, due to the huge amounts of fluid retained put pressure on the diaphram and lungs and lead to shortness of breath - thankfully my hubby isn't at present showing signs of ascites but he keeps to a daily fluid intake limit of 2000ml and low salt diet.

Your hubby really needs to see a specialist and tackle his drinking or as you fear his drinking will lead to serious ill health and potentially worse. He needs to have a scan, blood tests, the biopsy and stop drinking, if it is cirrhosis and he carries on damaging his liver further there will be no return & liver transplants are not offered to patients who are not sober or who don't sign up to never drink again following transplant. It sounds as though you have a battle on your hands I am afraid to say, your hubby could at least give it a go, sadly there is nothing my hubby can do to prevent further damage as there is no underlying cause to his cirrhosis which he can stop - we've just to wait for deterioration and then perhaps a shot at a transplant.

All the best to you and your family, look up support networks for family of alcohol users and they might advise on how you can help him the best although ultimately it is his own choice, treatments and abstinence can't be forced upon him.

Katie xx

I've also got cirrhosis, mine's caused by HCV, and have had to have varices banded. I'm going this afternoon for some more and a decision on a shunt to reduce the portal pressure. It sounds like your husband needs a reality check and you've got a very difficult job persuading him to consider the damage he's doing to himself and his loved ones. Once cirrhosis takes hold then it really is a downward path. As far as varices are concerned, I consider them the worst hospital procedure I've ever had. The procedure is in itsself quite simple; a flexible tube is put down the throat and passed through the esophagus and stomach into the small intestine, photos and video of the linings are taken and varices are checked. If there are any large ones in the esophagus then banding is considered. If the varix needs to be banded a very small elastic band is put on the end of the endoscope, the tube is put back down the throat, the vessel sucked into the tool and the band applied. This strangles the vein and stops the risk of the varix bursting. A burst varix can lead to massive and life-threatening blood loss. There is often no symptoms though I'm sure I can feel every one lol. After the procedure there is often temporary difficulty with eating and drinking and the varices usually come back so every six weeks the procedure is repeated until no more are found. Any varices found in the stomach or small intestine cannot be treated and are monitored. Propanalol or other beta-blockers (I'm on carvedilol) are prescribed to try to reduce the portal pressure. None of this is nice or good but doubtless your husband would say stopping drinking is very difficult. My sister could never stop and died two years ago. If you need any other advice or help, please leave a message. People on here are very supportive though everyone acknowledges that we are each responsible for our own health. BTW tell him I had no problems with a biopsy; I had one 15 years ago and enjoyed the rest in hospital lol.

I have had varices caused through alcoholic cirrhosis. I stopped drinking completely and have had them treated with banding. It took 4/5 attempts but have now been cleared. I still need to be checked out every now and then but they have stayed clear, the main reason becuse i do not drink anymore. The thing with alcohol if you stop you can prevent any further damage. I know it is difficult but it can be done and things can possibly get better and can't stress anymore how important it is to stop, if he doesn't without doubt his condition will get worse. I managed to get the reality check i needed in time i really hope he does as well, wish you all the best.

I have had a liver transplant caused by alcoholism. As far as I am concerned the future is bleak unless he stops drinking and submits to a liver ortopsy. Even if he needs a liver transplant he will not receive one in UK if he has not stopped drinking. I truly sympathise with you and urge him to STOP DRINKING immediately. I wish you all the best for the future.

Im so sorry you have this worry and with daughters to worry about too. It can be very difficult when someone wont admit there is a problem and him refusing the biopsy is probably part of the denial. My brother was the same and unfortunately we lost him four years ago aged just 49. I agree you need support and advice regarding the alcohol side of things even if he wont accept it. There must be support groups for family which may help. Good luck hope things improve for you and yor husband.

I just want to thank everybody who gave me their feedback, it's difficult because he just don't care it's very sad that he is in such a deep deep denial. He is only 55 but what's Even more sad is that my daughter are only fifteen and six years old and I have to make a decision if I am goin to have me and my girls watch him die

Caramberman in reply to jenny39

Does he read any of these posts?

jenny39 in reply to Caramberman


No way he is in serious denial

Sorry to hear your plight.

I was in your situation, my first husband drank heavily and caused us no end of heartache. I decided to get "shot" and eventually met a decent man. There was just the two of us as kids had grown up, looking forward to travelling lots together. Guess what he was a non drinker or smoker, became ill and diagnosed with Liver disease. How ironic.

His was due to a genetic fault known as Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Defiency. He had varices they were banded about five times before his liver decompensated and then he had a transplant and was found to have liver cancer.

Mu husband was diagnosed with cirrohosis as a result of Auto Immune Disease in February and had active varices. In March he suffered a small bleed, I took him to hospital and under an endoscopy the surgeon found four varices two of which were about to rupture. Had this happened a major artery would have burst and there is a 25% chance of fatality. He had two procedures done over two weeks to have the varices "banded" and they have now been killed off. Hope that helps.

I know my hubby (who is fit and well) pretty much refuses to visit the GP for anything. His view is that this way he can avoid ever being diagnosed with anything and avoid ever having to undergo treatment for anything. He did once go for blood tests to check cholesterol, pre diabetes, BP etc, but has never been back! I think generally men (apologies to those men on here who do take responsibility for their health) are worse than women at going to the GP. Your hubby will know deep down that if he goes for a check up he will be told to stop drinking, something which he probably also knows he can't at the moment admit he has a problem with. Unfortunately there is probably nothing you can do to pressurise him into either getting help for his drinking or into going to the GP. My guess it will take a health crisis where he has to be taken to A & E before he will face up to the truth.

I am only 34 and have had to have 2 liver transplants due to PSC! Sucks when it's not even your fault! I wish you luck, but I'm sorry, someone that won't even keep himself healthy enough to take care of his own family pisses me off! I would give him and ultimatum! Either quit drinking or you and the kids are leaving, it's just a matter of time if he doesn't anyways! So many of us that have had to go through this, through no fault of our own and someone that won't even do what will save his life! He is looking to get away from his life! I hate to be so blount, but it's so true!! God bless you and your kids!!

My partner has these. He has fatty liver tissue disease..so not alcohol related. He has had one very life threatening attack which was pretty horrific. He was in intensive care for two weeks. But they did save his life. They have to band the broken veins which cause the bleeds and secondary blood poisioning.

I would suggest get him to watch what varices is. It's something you have to contain and operate on. So far he has had four operations. I feel sad as he doesn't drink a drop of alcohol. Your husband seems to clear have a self destruct button. But does he really not care how serious this is and the worry and impact it has on loved ones around him?


Approximately 70 percent of people who are hospitalized with alcoholic hepatitis already have underlying cirrhosis. It doesnt happen in the linear order described on the internet most of the time. Also by the time one has a serious bought of alcoholic hep its actually likely its not the first time they have had it. It likely was just more mild before and went unnoticed or ignored. If he has varices and the swelling in thw stomach is caused by ascites than its a good chance hes well advanced in the cirrhosis staging. It can vary a bit but it would put him somehwhere in the stage 3 cirrhosis category. Which is the first stage of decompensation. That of course is if the swelling is due to ascites which he wont know unless he gets all the proper testing done. My suggestion is to get to the doctor and be truthful as to whats been going on the last few years and let them make the qualified decisions. If it is decompensation it can go downhill right fast if a person keeps drinking. Hopefully he snaps out of that denial soon. Denial is the true silent killer in these cases.

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