Experiences withAlcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)
Symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)
ARLD does not usually cause any symptoms until the liver has been severely damaged.
When this happens, symptoms can include:
- feeling sick
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- yellowing of the whites of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
- swelling in the ankles and tummy
- confusion or drowsiness
- vomiting blood or passing blood in your stools
This means ARLD is frequently diagnosed during tests for other conditions, or at a stage of advanced liver damage.
If you regularly drink alcohol to excess, tell your GP so they can check if your liver is damaged.
Treating alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)
There's currently no specific medical treatment for ARLD. The main treatment is to stop drinking, preferably for the rest of your life.
This reduces the risk of further damage to your liver and gives it the best chance of recovering.
If a person is dependent on alcohol, stopping drinking can be very difficult.
But support, advice and medical treatment may be available through local alcohol addiction support services.
A liver transplant may be required in severe cases where the liver has stopped functioning and does not improve when you stop drinking alcohol.
You'll only be considered for a liver transplant if you have developed complications of cirrhosis despite having stopped drinking.
All liver transplant units require people with ARLD to not drink alcohol while awaiting the transplant, and for the rest of their life.
Preventing alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)
The most effective way to prevent ARLD is to stop drinking alcohol or stick to the recommended limits:
- men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week
- if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal-strength lager or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits.
Even if you have been a heavy drinker for many years, reducing or stopping your alcohol intake will have important short-term and long-term benefits for your liver and overall health.
There are no symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease at first. Symptoms like weight loss and swollen ankles may appear later on.
Stopping drinking can help improve alcohol-related liver disease. A liver transplant may be needed if the damage to the liver is severe.
The best way to prevent alcohol-related liver disease is to stop drinking alcohol or stick to the alcohol limits recommended by the NHS.
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