Alcohol withdrawal symptoms - itchy al... - British Liver Trust

British Liver Trust

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Alcohol withdrawal symptoms - itchy all over


Hi, I had a burning pain in my liver but it is easing off now after I have stopped drinking alcohol -, 31 days alcohol fee. I've started feeling itchy all over now however. My bloods came back satisfactory... Ggt slightly raised but gp said nothing to worry about and I have a fatty liver but thinks it will do me good quitting alcohol for this. All other bloods were satisfactory. Is it common for liver symptoms to get worse before they get better at this stage of alcohol withdrawal? Appreciate any advice. Thanks

27 Replies

I get this itchiness and I suspect it is from a liver problem. However I don't know if that's also true for you.

Jaid123 in reply to Cetus

Thanks for your response. I've only had blood test done so far - have you had blood work done? And any other tests that you could recommend me asking for? Many thanks - appreciate any advice. Jaid

Hi Jaid. Well done! Giving up the booze is definately going to allow your liver to repair but you also need to be eating healthily too, exercising daily and drinking plenty of water to get rid of toxins. So if you do tend to eat foods high in fats and sugar your liver will still be struggling to recover, hence your continuing symptoms. Best wishes Laura

Jaid123 in reply to Laura009

Thanks Laura, I will look at diet... I have been eating chocolate as a substitute so will refrain from that and drink more water. The itching has only happened in last couple of days which I thought odd given that I would have thought the break from alcohol would be benefitting my liver.... And at least the burning pain has subsided in this regard as well as the indigestion... So that's a real bonus. But itching has surprised and worried me. Should I be asking for any further tests? Only had blood tests done at the moment and only thing to note from these is the "slightly raised" GGT. I appreciate your comments and help thank you. Jaid.

Laura009 in reply to Jaid123

It is quite common for people who give up drinking to fill that craving with something else be it chocolate or crisps etc. Which does make abstaining from all the things which antagonise the liver that much harder. It will take lots of willpower and determination but the difference it will make to your health will prove it's well worth it. Look for distractions too, introduce new hobbies into your life to fill those gaps when would have been drinking or nibbling on those sugary fatty snacks. Cut up fruits or veg .. carrot and celery sticks even cherry tomatoes, in bowls as your go to nibbles instead.As regards to getting more tests done, Richard's advice will be good. But don't get overly concerned or anxious, be assured what you are doing is the right thing for you liver and health in general with dietry adjustments

All the very best


Jaid123 in reply to Laura009

Hi Laura, thanks so much - love your suggestions re fat free alternative snacks. Will definitely try this. Really appreciate you taking the time to respond too. This community forum is really great - don't feel so alone. Thanks x

Laura009 in reply to Jaid123

You are so welcome and pleased you are getting the support here you are after xx

Hello Jaid, and well done in giving up drinking alcohol. It's the first step in getting your liver sorted out.

There are a few things I'd like to mention though.

Depending on how much damage has been caused to your liver over the years, it would be advisable to try and find out what state your liver is in. The basic liver function test just gives a brief snapshot of how the liver is coping. But it isn’t full proof as a person can have liver fibrosis and even cirrhosis and still have normal liver function test blood readings.

I would ask your GP for an ELF (Enhanced liver fibrosis) test. This will show if the liver is at the fibrosis or even fatty liver stage. If the liver has been taking a battering and has reached a point where it is at either the fibrosis or fatty liver stage, then all is not lost. The liver can still repair its self and return to a near-normal state. On average this should take around six weeks to repair. I see you are now 32 days, so your halfway there.

Because the liver has this amazing ability to repair its self. Some people can become complacent, “Oh my livers fine, it can repair its self”. There is an analogy that is often used. If you were to cut your hand it will heal. If you were to cut your hand 100 times, it would still heal. But if you were to cut your hand 1000 times, then there is a good chance that it’s just not going to make it. The liver is a bit like that.

The itching your feeling could be caused by bile salt accumulating under the skin. Which would be an indication that the liver isn’t working right.

If I was in your shoes, I would ask my GP for that ELF test in the first instance. Then I would also look at my drinking habit/routine. I think you may need to have something in place to prevent any temptation over the Christmas period. Avoid those drinking buddies, especially the one’s who will try and twist your arm, “Go one have one, One’s not going to kill you”. That person isn’t a true friend. A true friend would most likely to say, “If I see you with a drink in your hand, I’ll kill you myself).

Have some plan in place to avoid possible triggers. And above all, be proud of yourself for being able to cope without drinking at all

Well done once again.


Thanks Richard, I appreciate your help and advice. I will speak to my GP and try and get the tests you have suggested. I had my gall bladder removed in May 2017 and I wondered if there is now a problem with the bile ducts or liver itself? The reason I contacted GP originally couple of weeks ago was pain/burning sensation in liver, indigestion and I had a nosebleed (I've never had a nosebleed ever) and this has all given me the fear.... Enough to completely stop drinking. Since my blood test, my gums spontaneously bled the other night in bed. I spoke to my GP and he's not concerned - advised me to go to dentist for check up. Re bile salts and itching - would the bilirubin not have shown up as high in blood test? I have urine dip sticks at home and have tested bilirubin on that - it is showing "small" on that colour chart but appreciate this may be just a rough screening tool and not overly accurate. I don't think I am jaundiced either - is that what bike salts in the skin is? I am feeling a lot better since stopped drinking.... Definitely getting a better sleep and feel so much better about myself too. But this itching, which has only started a couple of days ago now has me really concerned. Thanks so much for your advice. Jaid

There are several possible conditions here, so my comments are just advisory.

It is possible when a person has their gallbladder removed, that not all the stones are removed at the time. It is possible that over time, some of these can become lodged in the bile duct. This then impedes the flow of bile from the liver, and cause certain enzymes in the liver to rise. This may show up in a liver function test. Once the stone subsides, the bile can flow once again, and the liver goes back to normal. This stone can repeatedly become stuck, again and again until it is removed or dealt with using a technic called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy procedure.

What does concern me, is the nose bleeds. I had a variceal bleed back in 2014. At that time, and for some time afterwards, I would suffer a nose bleen if ever I blew my nose.

I really think you should mention all this to your GP and request that ELF test. All medical diagnosis is arrived at by ruling out what it’s not. So, ruling out the possibility of fatty liver, or even fibrosis would be the next stage.

I shall message you privately with some other advice.





Richard makes a very good point about finding out if there is any fibrosis- stiffening or scarring in the liver.

An Enhanced liver fibrosis ( ELF) test can be used and also a Fib-4 score blood test and an imaging test called a FibroScan.

Hopefully your doctor can advise you and also help you with regards to your itching symptoms.

Good luck and well done with your abstinence. Keep us posted.

Jaid123 in reply to Trust1

Thanks so much for your advice - really appreciate this and for providing me with a plan of action to take forward with my GP. I feel a bit better for coming into this forum and getting feedback and support. Many thanks. Jaid

Trust1Administrator in reply to Jaid123

You are very welcome Jaid, if you are in the UK, you may also want to call our nurse-led helpline on 0800 652 7330 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday.

Well done on the sobriety path, keep it up. I know how hard it is,even more so in current situations but your doing brilliantly. 👍take care


Jaid123 in reply to Ashw88

Thankyou Ashley - I am determined to get my act together and live my best life. All the very best Jaid

Well done giving up alcohol and remember if you drank for years and years your liver won't heal in a couple of months. My doctor stated, sometimes it takes up to 2 yrs. I also itch but I have PBC, which isn't the same as your liver struggles.

Jaid123 in reply to sophiaS1980

Hi Sophia, I am so sorry to hear about your condition and hope you have a treatment plan in place and resolves any ongoing issues you may have. Can I ask if you take anything for the itching? Many thanks Jaid x

sophiaS1980 in reply to Jaid123

Take a shower in CeraVe (for diabetes) and use the cream afterwards, it really helps

Jaid123 in reply to sophiaS1980

Thanks so much Sophia, Jaid x

Laura009 in reply to Jaid123

I would advise you to run any recommended creams or solutions to ease the itching, by your doctor first xx

I’d go along with the two year figure too. The NHS website really does say a fatty liver should clear up after two weeks without alcohol. It took six months for my mild fatty liver to clear. I don’t have fibrosis, but I expected a lower score than my 7KPa. Maybe that’d be lower now, over a year later, but the doc said all was normal, and that’ll do for me.

Jaid123, well done on quitting. It has to be permanent this time as us ex-heavy drinkers won’t be able to drink moderately or occasionally again.

i think u had itching too and had a fatty liver, i think, how long did you itch?

I didn’t have any itching; I just had general aches in the liver area for around six months after I quit drinking. That’s why I went for a private fibroscan. The doctor who went through the results said my aches were probably due to the fatty liver, but he had no concerns as the fat had cleared up and I’d stopped drinking - he couldn’t emphasise enough that this was the number one best thing I’d done for my liver health.

I really don't wish to tread on anyone's toes here, but I would only use treatments that have been medically advised by a doctor, or consultant. Some chemicals can be toxic to the liver, and one person's remedy can be another person's poison.

I have just looked up the side effects of CeraVe and it says to ask a doctor or pharmacist if this medicine is safe to use if you have liver or kidney disease:

I don't know what you were reading but CeraVe is moisturizing for the skin, you can buy it from Amazon , Walmart, any store, not a medication. I wouldn't tell anyone to take medication or vitamins but a moisturizer is fine for the skin.

Yes, and all chemicals and substances absorbed through the skin end up entering into the blood system and in turn end up having to be cleaned and filtered by the liver. This is why manufacturers declare warnings of possible side effects. I am merely pointing this out as a cautionary measure.

CeraVe contains Salicylic acid. I am only quoting an online reference here from an American source. "Salicylic acid is a widely used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). But it is known to cause serious liver damage occasionally. Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress are predicted to be the major factors of salicylic acid-induced liver injury":

It is used for diabetes and it won't hurt the skin, it is for itching. you don't leave it on the skin, you rinse it off. I know what you are doing, no need to tell me.

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