Liver disease symptoms: Why you shouldn’t ignore ‘man boobs’

Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol

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Over the coronavirus pandemic, rates of alcoholic liver disease, as well as sales of alcohol, increased in the UK. Liver disease has few noticeable symptoms until it progresses to very dangerous levels, but you should know what symptoms you must never ignore. What are the signs of liver disease?

According to Public Health England (PHE), over the course of the coronavirus pandemic alcoholic liver disease has risen sharply.

In 2020, the number of deaths as a result of alcoholic liver disease rose by over 20 percent compared to 2019.

PHE found a growing amount of people were ‘risk drinking’ during the pandemic – that’s drinking over 35 units a week for women, and over 50 for men.

That’s roughly three and a half bottles of wine for women, and 25 pints of beer for men.

Alcohol sales also went up, as people found themselves trying to stave off lockdown boredom and in many cases dealing with stress.

Liver disease is nicknamed the ‘silent killer’ as it can be difficult to spot the symptoms before the disease has become severe.

People admitted to hospital in an emergency related to liver disease are a staggering seven to eight times more likely to die than those admitted for stroke or heart attack.

All of that might sound bleak, but the good news is the liver has an amazing ability to repair itself, as long as the person is able to give up drinking.

The trouble is, one third of alcoholic liver related deaths occur before the person is aware there’s an issue.

So, it’s crucial to be able to spot any symptoms, as well as ensuring you are keeping an eye on how many units you’re drinking.

Unusual symptoms of liver disease

Did you know ‘man boobs’ can be a symptom of cirrhosis?

You might think man boobs are a harmless, albeit embarrassing, consequence of getting older and perhaps carrying a few extra pounds, but they could be a symptom of liver disease.

Cirrhosis is the name given to the late stage of liver scarring, and can be caused by excessive alcohol drinking or other liver diseases.

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Damage done by cirrhosis can’t be reversed, but if caught early the damage can be limited.

The technical term for ‘man boobs’ or ‘moobs’ is gynecomastia, and you shouldn’t ignore them.

Other symptoms men can experience as a result of cirrhosis is a loss of sex drive, and testicular atrophy, which is the technical term for shrinking testicles.

What are other symptoms of cirrhosis to look out for?

You should go to the doctor as soon as you experience a possible sign of cirrhosis, or even if you just want to talk to someone about the amount of alcohol you drink.

The NHS can help you with services to cut down your drinking, if it’s something you feel has become excessive to the point you’re worried it is affecting your health.

The following symptoms can be signs of cirrhosis, but symptoms don’t typically present themselves until the disease has become quite advanced:

  • Tiredness
  • Bruising easily
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Swelling in your legs, feet or ankles (edema)
  • Weight loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Yellow discolouration in the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Fluid accumulation in your abdomen (ascites)
  • Spidery blood vessels on your skin
  • Redness in the palms of your hands
  • For women, absent or loss of periods not related to menopause
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)

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