Published On: January 13, 2022259 words1.3 min read


I am afraid that my liver is already damaged beyond repair … I am 65 and have drunk heavily all my life. Have I left it too late and how can you test for this? Thanks


I’m so pleased that you’ve become aware of the possible damage you may have done due to your drinking. And it’s never too late to stop.

Alcohol gets broken down by the liver to acetaldehyde which is extremely inflammatory. This is what damages the liver. However, only about 15% of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis of the liver. This is thought to be due to our genetics. Some people are better at metabolising the alcohol than others. Fatty liver is very common in heavy drinkers. This can be reversed when one stops drinking, usually within a few months.

There are various tests that can be done to determine the damage done. Liver function tests are not very accurate and are usually only abnormal in end stage liver disease. There is a newish test called carbohydrate deficient transferrin which can demonstrate damage.  A better estimation is ultrasound of the liver. It can show the development of a fatty liver and cirrhosis. The big centers are able to determine the stiffness of the liver which demonstrates the level of inflammation.

The golden standard of liver function is a liver biopsy. It is not without its risks however and the before mentioned is usually adequate to make a diagnosis.

Hope this is useful. Let me know if I can be of further assistance

Best wishes,

Dr Judy.


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