Alcohol and liver disease

Alcohol is the biggest cause of liver disease in the UK. Many people think that you have to be an alcoholic to develop liver disease, but this is a myth. Regularly drinking over the recommended limit increases the risk of developing liver disease and liver cancer. Although most people who drink stick within the limits, around 1 in 4 people drink alcohol in a way that could harm their health.

Alcohol is broken-down by the liver. This produces harmful chemicals that can damage and kill liver cells. Although the liver is very good at repairing itself, it can’t keep up with the damage from regularly drinking too much alcohol. This can cause scarring which builds up and leads to cirrhosis.

Not everyone who drinks too much alcohol will develop liver disease. The risk is higher for people who have another type of liver condition. And for people who have a BMI in the overweight or obese range. Other factors such as genetics and family history can also play a role in whether someone will develop a serious form of alcohol-related liver disease.

If you are worried that alcohol has damaged your liver, ask your GP for a liver fibrosis test. This could be a blood test or a type of scan that checks whether your liver is likely to have any scarring (fibrosis). Finding liver disease early can make a big difference.