British Liver Trust
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Heavy drinker and high liver function test?

Hello everyone, I'm new here. I'm young (23) and have got myself into a bit of a rut with alcohol. For the last year I've drank on average 2 bottles of wine a day. I'm under no illusions that this is way too much, but it just continued (and escalated) after uni life ended. Anyway, I'm not doing this anymore. I no longer drink in the weeks, so I still drink relatively heavy at the weekends (socially, probably 30-40 units across both nights).

I requested a liver function from my doc and they called with the results. It was a receptionist who didn't give me any figures. All she said, quite cheerily, was 'your liver test is higher than last time so could we book a retest in a few weeks time?'

It's worth mentioning that a few months ago I had an 'across the board' blood test for an unrelated health issue - everything, including 'liver function', CBC, platelets etc, came back 'satisfactory' or 'normal' - doc confirmed no worries. She also said the stuff they tested for in that liver function 'isn't usually what we look for in drink-related problems ' - hence this test.

Anyway, on pushing the receptionist she again, cheerily, said if the doctor was massively concerned about anything, she'd either call me herself, or likely ask me to come see her. She added repeats are common, and often just show mild rises (obviously she's unaware of my drinking).

So, my question is, is this result likely to be indicative or serious liver damage (cirrhosis, hepatitis etc) or more likely something temporary, or a fatty liver? Just to sum up, recently graduated, one year of very heavy drinking, now brought down to much lower levels. No withdrawal symptoms, no symptoms of anything (pain, jaundice, itching, nada) -- should I be unduly concerned about these results?

Thanks for your time.

17 Replies
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I am not a doctor but I am sure you would be aware if you had any of those types of liver disease, I certainly was! If you stop or seriously cut down on your drinking the results will improve dramatically.

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Thanks for your reply! Already just from not drinking every day I feel much better, and while I do drink a lot at the weekends, this seems very normal amongst my social group and people of my age. I was keen to nip it in the bud after one year as I suspect its very easy for one year to turn to two, then four, then ten,so hopefully this will work in my favour.

I guess my worry is everything says, more often than not, liver disease doesn't cause symptoms until a very late stage.

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I doubt you've caused any serious damage to your liver from a few years of heavy drinking, unless you have an underlying condition like a hepatitis infection, PBC, etc. You're right about not having any obvious symptoms until it's too late. At 32 I was diagnosed with hep B, cirrhosis 6 months later then transplant less than a year after cirrhosis diagnosis. Never had any symptoms until around 6 months before transplant, although I was unusually skinny and at times a little pale most of my life.

As for your social group and peer pressure, ditch any bad influence people before you cause any irreversible damage to yourself. They won't be there when the fun times come to an end. None of my drinking "mates" bothered to come see me at the hospital.

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Thanks for your reply, and for sharing your experience. To my knowledge I do not have an underlying condition, but I guess the retest(s) are a good start to see if I do.

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Just to clarify, I'm not saying if you have no underlying conditions, you should keep drinking the way you have been. Whether a glass of red wine with meals is good for your health, is debatable but whatever you do, everything in moderation. Just remember you only get one life, don't waste it away on alcohol. There are countless illnesses we can't do anything about but with alcoholic liver disease, you're in control. If you do get it because of your drinking, you'll regret it everyday for the rest of your life. I know I would.

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Just to reiterate the point k-dog made, drinking “mates” will run for the hills if this escalates into anything serious. 15/20 units a day even if it is just for a couple of days every week is a considerable intake. I used to drink that and more 7 days a week, convincing myself that me and my “friends” were having a great time. Obviously this amount takes building up to, so I would have built my tolerance up over a few years, and then hit it hard. Once I was in it, it was impossible to stop. I eventually quit by going into “rehab” or a psychiatric hospital in all but name. I now have been alcohol free for over 15 years. Guess how many of my dinking “mates” keep in contact with me on a regular basis - only 1. However my friends that do not drink at all call me all the time.

They say that in life if we have one true friend, we are rich, I have 5 people who I would call true “friends” so that makes me a lottery winner.

When my illness was diagnosed I was about 10 years clean and sober, when my transplant attempt went horribly wrong my true friends came up to my bed when I was comatose, supported my family, cried, said goodbye, and prayed.

My ex drinking “mates” were nowhere to be seen, my take on this is that as soon as I stopped drinking, still laughing and joking I actually became their conscience and they really didn’t want to look at themselves and how they drank.

I would not change my life today for that drinking life with a group of fair weather friends and although I have a diseased liver, I am still laughing and joking with my wife, my kids, my grandkids and my true friends. Now this is the life beyond my wildest dreams, and all I had to do was stop drinking to get it.

The aborted transplant was 18 months ago, and although my wife was told I had anywhere between 12-24 hours to live, I am still here. Mobility aside you would never believe there was anything wrong with me.

Please take care and look after YOU

Ray

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Ray - I just want to say what a positive and uplifting post that is and so very true, you do find out who your friends are from both a good and bad perspective and there are a few surprises thrown in along the way.

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Good post Barnet

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Doctors normally don't get too excited about moderate elevations in liver enzymes until they reach double or more normal over more than one test. Our livers are fairly bullet proof regarding alcohol in our early 20's, so long as we're not drinking all day every day.

This said, anytime you're popping high enzymes, this is something to consider carefully.

If you enjoy drinking alcohol, you can continue to do so throughout your adult life, provided you don't get to a point where your liver is chronically stressed. Once you develop alcoholic disease, you've got to go teetotal (for life!), so avoiding this is something you might be interested in.

The liver enzymes are your best indicator of liver stress, so when these are elevated, some "new rules" for drinking may be in order.

Beer has substantially less alcohol than wine, & if you're going to spend several hours tippling with friends & don't want to quit at one or two glasses, switching to beer may be helpful.

Light beer is God's gift to the drinking man, & you can quaff on this for several hours every weekend without too much risk of serious disease.

Regular drinkers should always go in for routine bloods every year, to monitor liver function. If liver labs come up high, you're drinking too much!

If you find your consumption is increasing over time, this is also an alarming red flag you're headed for trouble. You might also wish to consider where you'll be 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. Avoiding excess consumption is the best way to insure you'll be happy & healthy.

Moderation in all things, and to thine own self be true!

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Thanks for your reply. 20 units a day, every day for a year, is 140 units a week. I'm not sure my age would really protect me from those pretty staggering levels, but it is reassuring to hear you suggest I may not yet have any lasting damage.

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Hi, just from experience I think this is a warning sign from your body which you have obviously listened to and cut right back on your alcohol consumption - if the blood test results had shown something that would indicate serious liver damage/disease your Dr would be bordering on negligent by not investigating this as a matter if urgency.

I went to the Drs for sone blood tests as I had felt very uncomfortable- marker CA-125 was raised high which indicates suspected ovarian cancer and further investigations were carried out for both ovarian and pancreatic cancer.

At this point they also started to investigate my liver, I was going through a period of significant stress and sadly was using alcohol as a coping technique which did not help it only exacerbated the problem! Although not excessive i was told that my body simply could not tolerate alcohol.

My point of going through that is to show you how easy it is to get cirrhosis you dont have to be drinking a bottle of whisky a day to get alcoholic liver disease and it can show up as something else which places more pressure on you. Wait to see your Dr and keep doing what you are doing - quit will you are ahead.

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Hi to you. After reading your post I too am confident that at an early age you may not have developed a liver problem. However, please, please, look after yourself. I noticed you said you had just graduated and, therefore, there are many opportunities ahead in your life. Please don't waste the achievement and the opportunity your parents have given you. Not everyone is so fortunate. Alcohol is an absolute "demon" in people's lives and inevitably if you continue drinking, albeit over the weekend, as other "posters" above have said it still is too much. Where were your so called friends when you wanted to talk about this. In the pub no doubt!! Please be careful and look after YOURSELF, don't wait until it's too late. Take good care hey.

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Ooops, sorry to you, mean to reply to KR95. You take care too.

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Hi to you. After reading your post I too am confident that at an early age you may not have developed a liver problem. However, please, please, look after yourself. I noticed you said you had just graduated and, therefore, there are many opportunities ahead in your life. Please don't waste the achievement and the opportunity your parents have given you. Not everyone is so fortunate. Alcohol is an absolute "demon" in people's lives and inevitably if you continue drinking, albeit over the weekend, as other "posters" above have said it still is too much. Where were your so called friends when you wanted to talk about this. In the pub no doubt!! Please be careful and look after YOURSELF, don't wait until it's too late. Take good care hey.

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Hi, I have recently had a scare, cgt 157 expected at least fatty liver, I am 44 and like a drink moderate mid week but heavy at weekends. Had ultrasound and everything is ok even though the doctor said I had done a lot of damage and I am finished drinking forever. Had 4 weeks off and cgt back down to 42. I guess I am lucky and need to change my lifestyle! Hope this helps but take it as a warning as 3 weeks ago I was thinking I was in trouble and I could never have a drink again which wasn’t a pleasant thought....

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There is really no safe limit when it comes to alcohol consumption. What may appear as a moderate amount can cause as much damage to 1 person as to another who drinks a lot more.

My husband made the mistake of telling me he drank nowhere near as much as his mates. His mates are in their 60s now, many of them have had health issues but my husband died 8 years ago, aged just 54 of liver disease, multi organ failure and bronco pneumonia all caused by alcohol.

You have your whole life ahead of you. Enjoy it. You don't need to drink to have fun. Get rid of it before it takes hold of you.

All the best

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You have been given some very good advice here andhope you listen. At 23 we all thought we were bullet proof and it only happens to ‘those others’. But if you continue to abuse your body you will become one of ‘those others’. We all believed that there is a pill for every ill or a magic operation to make it all good again, but at some stage life catches up with you. Cirrhosis has no cure and some very very nasty side affects. Have fun, but in moderation....because, as everyone on this site has learned, you don’t get any serious symptoms until it’s too late and nothing can be done. JX

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