According to Dr Nick Sheron, liver expert at the University of Southampton, immediate action needs to be taken to make people more aware of the dangers of drinking too much alcohol.
Over the past 30 years, the rate of alcohol-related death has increased by 500% in this country. Dr Sheron says: “Liver disease develops silently. There are no signs or symptoms – the liver has no pain fibres, until disease is very far advanced.”
One quarter of the UK population drinks too much without fully understanding the dangers. By the time a patient realises they have a problem with their liver, it is usually too late to undo the damage.
Even patients who stop drinking at this point often die of liver complications within the first year of diagnosis.
Whereas current tests do check enzymes for liver damage, they cannot identify the earlier liver scarring process. If this scarring could be identified earlier, then a great many lives could potentially be saved.
Dr Sheron and his team have now developed a simple blood test they have named the ‘Southampton Traffic Light’ test. The results are categorised under three different colours:
- Red – liver scarring is present, liver disease is possible and further hospital tests are needed immediately.
- Amber – there is a 50:50 chance that the patient has scarred liver and a significant chance of dying within the next five years if drinking habits are not curtailed immediately.
- Green – no evidence of scarring at present and patient is highly unlikely to die of liver disease over the next five years.
Dr Sheron believes more needs to be done to encourage Britons to develop more sensible drinking habits, including introducing a crack-down on cheap alcohol in shops and bars.
To find out more about the effect of alcohol on the body, or to discover how counselling can act as an effective tool for treating addiction, please visit our Alcoholism page.
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