Medical experts notice ‘significant’ increase in liver disease among young people
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Medical experts are noticing a “significant” increase in liver disease in young people, specifically women.
According to UW Health, liver disease and cirrhosis, or significant scaring of the liver, can be caused by multiple different conditions. It includes viral hepatitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and also heavy alcohol consumption.
Doctors say as liver diseases increase, the mortality rates from the conditions is on the rise as well. Experts believe the skyrocketing rates in people ages 25-34 is “entirely driven” by alcohol-associated liver disease and rising rates of alcohol use disorder.
Dr. Rita German, a UW Health transplant hepatologist, says this trend is alarming.
“This trend is extremely concerning to those of us treating advanced liver disease,” said Dr. German. “When we see people drinking more alcohol at a younger age, we are also watching more young people develop – and die from – cirrhosis.”
Doctors say liver diseases have been increasing over the past decade, alongside an increase in alcohol consumption. Historically, drinking peaks around times of trauma and stress, such as the Great Recession and now the COVID-19 pandemic. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported people have been drinking 14% more during the pandemic.
“We as health care providers want to identify unhealthy levels of alcohol use as early as possible before patients develop liver disease,” said Dr. German.
Dr. German urged people to be mindful of their alcohol consumption, especially if the have noticed drinking more since the start of the pandemic. The same study also said women have been drinking 17% more during the pandemic than before, plus there has been a 41% increase in binge drinking in women.
“We can support you with alcohol cessation resources, treatment centers, mental health professionals and of course medical interventions, but the earlier we know the better,” Dr. German said.
Dr. German added that while a glass of wine at dinner is not typically enough to cause liver disease, reducing the overall consumption of alcohol can have positive effects on their health. Doctors also reminded people that while men can safely have two drinks a day, women should have no more than one.
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