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19 March 2013, 06:36
New figures reveal the number of hospital admissions for people under 30 with alcohol-related liver disease has increased by 400% in the North East.
Nationally the increase was 117%.
Research carried out by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, has shown that 115 people under the age of 30 were admitted to hospital for alcohol-related liver disease last year, compared to 23 in 2002/03.
Hospital admissions across both genders and for all age ranges have also continued to rise in the North East for alcohol-related liver disease, almost doubling over the last 10 years from 2,088 in 2002/03 to 4,146 in 2011/12.
In England the number of admissions rose from 25,706 in 2002/03 to 49,456 in 2011/12 - an increase of 92%
Dr Steven Masson, Consultant Hepatologist at the Freeman Hospital?s Liver Transplant Unit, said:
"It is extremely worrying that we are seeing an increasing number of younger people diagnosed with alcohol-related liver disease.
Although these figures may seem relatively small, the fact that 115 young people in our region were admitted into the North East hospitals with alcohol-related liver disease in the past year is terrifying.
Only a few years ago this disease was extremely rare in people under 30 but unless our drinking habits change, the problem is only set to worsen.
We need to ensure that people are aware of the dangers.
The earlier the age at which people drink, and the more they drink, the greater the chance of developing terminal liver disease in adult life.
Unfortunately in many cases, by the time people are presenting with these symptoms to a specialist the damage has already been done. And the damage is irreversible.
A lot of people think that this sort of thing won't happen to them. It does and sadly it?s something we are seeing more and more. Adults need to drink within the recommended limits - 2-3 units a day, or about two small glasses of wine, for a woman and 3-4 units, or about two pints of low strength beer or lager (3.5%), for a man.
Unless we do something soon, liver specialists across the region are going to be dealing with more and more young people whose lives have been ruined by alcohol."
Alcohol-related liver disease does not usually cause any symptoms until the liver has been extensively damaged but starts with fat deposits in the liver leading to inflammation (steatohepatitis), fibrosis (scar tissue) and ultimately liver failure from Cirrhosis.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office; said:
"These figures demonstrate that we have a real problem and alcohol continues to have a devastating impact on our health.
People are drinking too much from an early age driven by alcohol which is too affordable, too available and too heavily promoted."