Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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Liver scarring arises mostly in patients with chronic liver disease, but any condition that harms the organ can give way to cirrhosis. Generally, those who abuse alcohol are more likely to become subject to these complications. As the liver starts scarring, changes in salivary production may become increasingly obvious.
Science Direct defines alcoholic cirrhosis as a build-up of scar tissue in the liver, which can trigger a cascade of symptoms.
The amount of fat present may vary at this stage, but it is a clear sign that liver disease “has progressed”, according to the health body.
The deposition of collagen around the major veins is an early marker of who will progress to this stage of the disease.
Mount Sinai explains: “Generally, symptoms of alcoholic liver disease include abdominal pain and tenderness, dry mouth and increased thirst, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), loss of appetite and nausea.”
One of the key mechanisms responsible for dry mouth – medically known as xerostomia – is the swelling of parotid glands.
Science Direct explained: “In approximately 50 percent of patients [with alcoholic liver cirrhosis] the parotid glands are enlarged, giving rise to a 50 percent reduction in salivary flow rate and a reduction in salivary sodium, bicarbonate and chloride levels.”
The parotid glands are two salivary glands that sit just in front of the ears and assist the body with chewing and digesting food. Aside from causing dry mouth, swelling of these glands can cause fever and pain.
How does alcohol damage the liver?
“Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to dangerous damage called alcoholic liver disease,” cautions Mount Sinai.
The longer you’ve abused alcohol and the more alcohol you’ve consumed, the greater likelihood you will develop liver disease.
The healthy body adds: “Alcohol may cause swelling and inflammation in your life or something called hepatitis.
“Over time, this can lead to scarring and cirrhosis of the liver, which is the final phase of alcoholic liver disease.”
How long does it take for alcoholic-related liver disease to cause scarring?
Michigan Medicine states that between 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis typically after 10 or more years of drinking.
World Journal of Hepatology explains that according to some reports, cirrhosis does not develop below a lifetime alcohol intake of 100kg of undiluted alcohol.
“This amount corresponds to an average daily intake of 30 grams of undiluted alcohol for 10 years,” says the journal.
In the most serious case of alcohol-related cirrhosis, the entire liver is scarred, causing it to shrink and harden.
Unfortunately, the condition may not have any symptoms at all in the early stages, which is why heavy drinkers are encouraged to take action.
The NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across three days or more.
“There’s no completely safe level of drinking, but sticking within these guidelines lowers your risk of harming your health,” explains the health body.
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