Alcoholic liver disease affecting younger women

More young women than ever are developing alcoholic liver disease in Scotland with hundreds of patients being diagnosed in their 20s and 30s. Pic: Phil Wilkinson
More young women than ever are developing alcoholic liver disease in Scotland with hundreds of patients being diagnosed in their 20s and 30s. Pic: Phil Wilkinson

More young women than ever are developing alcoholic liver disease in Scotland with hundreds of patients being diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.

This is according to Jim Bett, service manager at Fife Alcohol Support Service (FASS) based in Kirkcaldy.

He said: “It’s a very sad story. Females seem to be succumbing to liver damage due to heavier drinking earlier in life than men and girls have been admitted to hospital with this problem as young as 16 years of age.

“This on its own is bad enough, but of these young women, 17 per cent died before discharge due to alcoholic liver disease, more than half died within five years – in fact the youngest female to lose her life in this manner with alcoholic liver disease was just 17 years of age.”

This stark trend has been exposed by a ground breaking study which reveals the devastating toll heavy drinking is taking on the Scottish population.

It found that more than 35,000 people have been diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease after being rushed to hospital since 1991.

Jim added: “Those who survived had to be re-admitted to hospital an average of three times per year, staying more than a week on each occasion and at a cost of £587 per day to the NHS.”

Co-author of the research Dr Mathis Heydtmann, a gastroenterologist and liver specialist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley stated that in his experience hospital staff were so used to seeing abnormal liver tests that they had become “immune” to their significance.

Dr Heydtmann said: “Since I came to Scotland in 2007, the workload of alcoholic liver disease has more than doubled!”

Jim Bett added: “Since the 1970s, the incidence of liver cirrhosis has risen dramatically in Scotland while it has actually fallen overall in the rest of Western Europe.

“If anyone feels they are drinking too much or too frequently, than FASS can offer assistance with free counselling throughout Fife to allow these people to take better charge of their lifestyle and reduce or eliminate the problems created by alcohol from their lives.

“The first move is to call FASS on 01592 206200.”