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Lads, it’s time to talk about your liver

Almost 4,000 young Queenslanders visited the Emergency Department (ED) last year with conditions relating to harmful alcohol consumption, prompting Queensland Health to issue a warning about the life-long damage consumption could cause.

RBWH Emergency Department Staff Specialist Dr David Rosengren said males aged between 20 and 34 years were more likely to be high risk drinkers and contributed to more than 59 percent of the ED presentations.

“While its estimated that one in five Queenslanders are drinking at levels considered harmful, a lot of young men don’t see their relationship with alcohol as problem, rather a rite of passage or just another part of growing up,” Dr Rosengren said.

“What they don’t realise is the effect of their heavy drinking will linger long after the hangover wears off and could lead to some very serious health concerns later on in life – such as fatty liver disease.”

Dr Rosengren said fatty liver disease was a build-up of fats in the liver that can damage the organ and lead to serious complications.

“A fatty liver has no symptoms, so people often learn about the state of their liver when they have a medical test for other reasons, or their liver becomes inflamed and causes vague abdominal discomfort,” Dr Rosengren said.

“Unlike most major organs, the liver can rejuvenate after it's been damaged, but that doesn't mean you can repeatedly abuse it and get away with it.

“Your liver can only handle a certain amount of alcohol at any given time, so if you drink more than the liver can deal with by drinking too quickly, or drinking too much, your liver cells struggle to process it. 

“What we are starting to see is more and more people with alcoholic or fatty liver disease in their 20s and 30s, which are conditions directly linked with harmful consumption of alcohol.

“Young Queenslanders need to reassess what their relationship with alcohol is, how much they are consuming and how often, and become more aware of the risks they are putting their bodies through.”

Alcohol and Drug Foundation Policy Manager Geoff Munro said young men were risking their liver health and overall wellbeing through heavy drinking.

“Research indicates that at least 40 percent of liver disease cases in Australia are caused by alcohol misuse. This is a shocking statistic, particularly given that alcohol-related diseases can be avoided by drinking less and more responsibly,” Mr Munro said.

“Unfortunately, some young men are unaware of the long term risks associated with heavy drinking, or are caught up in Australia’s hard drinking male culture and simply ignore the risks. This can ruin their health and shorten their lives.

“All Australians can improve their health and help to avoid long term alcohol-related diseases by making smarter drinking choices and reducing their alcohol consumption.”

ENDS

Last updated: 15 May 2018