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article imageAlcohol Related Disease Hitting The Young In the UK

By KJ Mullins     Dec 15, 2007 in Health
The young like to drink. It's the time in the lives of some that they do their heavy drinking and partying before settling down. That drinking is producing alcohol related disease in younger people, and women are being hit hard.
Doctors in the UK are seeing an increasing number of people in their late teens and early 20's with severe alcohol related diseases.
Because of this frightening trend the Alcohol Health Alliance has been formed by twenty four organizations, both doctors and charities to get the government to make excessive drinking a higher priority.
The alcohol industry is fighting back on warnings that call for a rise in alcohol taxes and a ban on early evening TV advertising. The industry says that the added costs would have hit home to the ones in trouble but instead it would be a problem for those who are sensible and drink in moderation.
In the past specialists saw people with cirrhosis of the liver and alcohol-related hepatitis when they were in their 50's and 60's. Now those doctors are treating patients for hepatitis in their early twenties. Women are the ones being hit hardest by cirrhosis. The doctors are saying they are seeing women who have permanently damaged their livers by the time they reach thirty.
Dr Jonathan Mitchell, a consultant hepatologist in Plymouth said: "I've seen patients who've been admitted with pretty catastrophic bleeding from stomach and oesophagus with no prior warning of a problem of their liver.
"Others may present with jaundice or swelling of the abdomen because there's a lot of fluid in the abdomen.
"All these three things are signs of quite advanced liver disease and can come out of the blue."
When alcohol is consumed in heavy volumes it builds up fatty deposits on the liver gradually. This interferes with the way it normally is processed by the body. The liver becomes inflamed which often brings to a low grade hepatitis.
The liver is an amazing organ. It has the ability to regrown and heal itself. That is one reason it can be used in living donor donation.
When the liver becomes too damaged though by scarring that scarring alters the shape of the liver making the organ unable to heal itself. When the liver fails a patient is put on the waiting list for a new liver. Unlike the kidneys though when the liver fails there is no band aid like dialysis to help a kidney. When the liver fails death is close at hand.
115 consultants contacted the BBC 101 said they have seen an increase in the number of patients that had alcohol related disease. 77 also said the age is shifting from the older person to those under the age of 25.
The chief culprit could be binge drinking, a practise that is common among the young. Another factor is that bars are serving larger amounts and stronger strength of alcoholic drinks. The average wine glass in pubs today holds 169ml compared to the previous 125ml. The average UK consumption has also been recalculated at 14.3 units a week up from the former 10.8 units. Because of the increased figures women are thought to be in the most danger from alcohol diseases.
Women in the UK tend to drink red wine. The wine of today is much stronger than it used to be.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, of the British Medical Association, said: "This doesn't come as a surprise. Poor labelling, variations in glass size, and rising alcoholic percentages - especially in wine - all make it hard for people to know how much they're drinking, and to control it."
Men are advised not to drink more than 21 units a week while women fare much better if they stay under 14 units. When the measurement of alcoholic units first hit the scene in the 1970's it was assumed that a glass of wine, a single measure of spirits or a half pint of beer equaled to one unit. The truth of the matter though is one glass of wine equals to 2 units while a large can of strong beer equals to 3.
According to an Alcohol Concern spokesman:
"There's always been big gap between how much people think they drink and how much they actually drink, but with changes in alcoholic strength this has clearly gotten worse.
"Current confusion may mean that large numbers of people are drinking at harmful or hazardous levels and aren't aware that they are putting themselves at risk in the long run."
With all of the new information about the risks of overconsumption how can one enjoy themselves at the pub for a night out with friends?
It is almost impossible to think that people would or even should give up drinking altogether. Instead by being a wise consumer a person can still enjoy a night out and not face possible health risks.
The key to drinking as to anything else is moderation. By knowing how many units one is consuming is a first step. Instead of thinking that you can have 14 glasses of wine in a week cut that down to seven and a woman is within the safe alcohol consumption for a seven day period.
Drinking while one eats is very European. It's also a very wise thing to do. It reduces the amount of alcohol that your body absorbs, spreads a drink over an evening and the best thing about it is the hang over you can expect is rarely a reminder in the morning.
A simple step that makes a world of difference is alternating between glasses of water or nonalcoholic beverages and your drinks. Not only does your system get a break for the effects of the alcohol but you are able to stay hydrated during the night. Those who think that by drinking their water after a heavy night of partying is the answer they are mistaken. The alcohol tends to paralyze the stomach which makes it unable to absorb that last minute water cure.
You don't have to live like it's the end of the world. If you never give your liver a day or two of rest then there will be damage. It's easier on your liver to handle those party nights if you do not to drink everyday.
By the time you are experiencing symptoms of liver damage it is generally to late to fix the damage.
Those symptoms are: jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), swelling of the abdomen with fluid (ascites), bleeding from the stomach or confusion (encephalopathy).
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