The No. 1 Reason Young Adults Are Dying from Liver Failure

Most people don’t expect themselves to die before they turn 35, especially from liver failure.

But one study is showing that’s what’s been happening for nearly a decade now. According to the study’s researchers, it’s an alcohol problem.

Specifically, researchers from the University of Michigan dove into the data for cirrhosis deaths in the United States. Researchers had noticed the stark increase in cirrhosis recently, and they wanted to find out the details behind that increase.

From 1999 to 2016, deaths from the condition has risen by a heaping 65 percent. Liver cancer has also doubled during that time frame, the study states.

But of all the age groups involved, the biggest increase in deaths came from patients aged 25-34, during their prime of life. The authors attest that unfortunate fact is “driven entirely by alcohol related liver disease.”

Researchers analyzed information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spanning 600,000 cirrhosis deaths. Over 400,000 of those were related to drinking alcohol excessively.

According to study coauthor Dr. Elliott Tapper, who is also a professor at the University of Michigan, these results are alarming.

Doctors are seeing more young people come into the hospital with liver failure, Tapper told Reuters. He said that kind of damage can only mean people are binge-drinking more than ever.

What alcohol fans don’t realize is that they’re drinking themselves to death—literally. Perhaps more awareness about the damaging effects of alcohol would help young people understand the risk they’re taking.

The study was published in July 2018 in the journal BMJ (1).

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What Happens When You Get Cirrhosis

Many people have heard of alcohol-related cirrhosis. But they may not understand its danger. The condition involves irreversible scarring of the liver, and heavy drinking is one of the most preventable causes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, cirrhosis is a late-stage form of liver disease. It’s caused when the liver is worked overtime to clear the body of harmful toxins.

Every time the liver receives any damage, it attempts to repair itself, leaving behind scar tissue in the process. However, that scar tissue can build up over time and hamper the liver from performing its job.

Many people don’t show signs of a problem at all until the damage is irreversible, says the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include yellowing of the eyes and skin, fluid buildup in the abdomen, and bruising or bleeding easily.

People who don’t drink alcohol can also get cirrhosis, usually due to obesity or chronic hepatitis infection.

The point is that cirrhosis poses too great a risk for young adults to take lightly.

The CDC defines moderate drinking as no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men. People who don’t drink every day should not “make up” these amounts later by drinking excessively.

Young adults and older adults alike would do well to heed these amounts. In addition, people driven to alcohol due to emotional factors should seek help to deal with those problems, rather than risking their lives.