Asked by Dave, Florida
I am a 28-year-old male, about 5 feet 9 and 235 pounds. Most of the extra weight is in the midsection. I do exercise three to four times weekly, but I love to eat. My question is, I have had elevated liver enzymes on and off (usually on) for about three years. During my four years of college, I drank A LOT of alcohol. I would say about 12 drinks a day, every day for four years. I still drink a day or two a month (and yes to the point of intoxication). I know this is not a good behavior and has its dangers. But I would like to know how likely it would be that I have already started liver cirrhosis from my drinking. Any advice on anything above would help. Thank you all very much.
Dr. Otis Brawley
Chief Medical Officer,
American Cancer Society
I really start to worry about anyone who routinely consumes more than one to two drinks a day. A drink is frequently smaller than many people think. Two ounces of spirits, five ounces of wine, and 12 ounces of beer are each one drink. The alcohol has excess calories that may add to weight problems, and prolonged use of alcohol increases the risk for liver disease.
Liver disease is often suspected in people who have a rise in several liver enzymes as measured in blood tests. Alcohol can cause an acute hepatitis or inflammation of the liver, it can also cause fatty infiltration of the liver, or scarring (also called cirrhosis) of the liver. These are all serious problems that are especially associated with binge drinking and prolonged alcohol abuse. It is not how old you are as much as how much you drink over how long a period of time. Also genetics plays a role. Some folks drink lots for years with no problems and some drink a moderate amount for a short time with serious complications. I have seen alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver disease and cirrhosis in people in their early twenties.
If you think you drink too much you probably do and you should cut back. If you cannot cut it back or better yet cut it out, I would encourage you to seek medical help from a doctor specializing in internal medicine. I have found that patients with a serious drinking problem also benefit from programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
By the way another common cause of elevated liver function tests is viral hepatitis. Hepatititis B and Hepatitis C are common throughout the world and people frequently do not know that they have them. Again a good internal medicine specialist can do testing to determine whether a patient has these diseases.
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