Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)

Alcohol-related liver disease is a condition where the liver has been damaged by alcohol. You don’t have to be addicted to alcohol to develop the condition, regularly drinking over the guideline amounts can put you at risk. It’s sometimes referred to as alcoholic liver disease, and your doctor might use the abbreviations ALD or ARLD when they’re talking about it.

There are several stages of alcohol-related liver disease. Cirrhosis, the most serious stage of liver disease, usually takes many years to develop.

Symptoms such as weight loss, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) and swelling of the tummy (ascites) are usually only seen when the disease is at an advanced stage.

Key facts about alcohol-related liver disease

  • Alcohol consumption is the most common cause of liver disease in the UK, accounting for 6 in 10 cases of liver disease. Up to 1 in 5 people in the UK drink alcohol in a way that could harm their liver.
  • You don’t have to show signs of addiction to be affected by alcohol-related liver disease. Having half a bottle of wine or a few pints most evenings can damage your liver.
  • Drinking alcohol increases the risk of 7 different types of cancer. Breast and bowel cancer are two of the most common types associated with drinking alcohol.
  • It’s estimated 3 to 5% of people with cirrhosis will develop liver cancer every year.