Diagnosed with alcoholic fatty liver, and fearing the worst

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Hello folks.

I've been posting in the alcohol consumption forum for several weeks as I have got increasingly more serious health concerns.

Briefly, all was fine in my life until summer 2013 when I had a different health scare (which proved to be negative in the end) but this quickly triggered insomnia, depression and anxiety.  I was put on various different medications, with little success.

A year ago, I began to drink heavily.  (I would have been a social drinker for 25 years upto then.)  The drinking was steady, with occasional binges.  I then drank much less from November to February.  However, I started drinking heavily again in March, again following the same pattern - steady drinking with occasional binges.  I didn't drink every day, but for many days in a row.  I then had a short, heavy binge at the start of August, and again at the end of August, which was the last time I drank.  It was only in August that I started to think about posssible liver problems, because my energy levels were dropping, I was sweating a lot, my appetite became poor and I was losing weight.

I saw GPs several times in August, and they ran various blood tests.  These were all normal, except for the AST and GGT liver enzymes.  On 4 August, the AST was 96 and GGT was 121.  But, two weeks later, after I had stopped drinking, AST had reduced to a normal value (25) and GGT had fallen to 72.  Doctors said I should be encouraged that they fell to normal or near normal so quickly.

After the binge at the end of August, I had to be admitted to hospital (I also had a bad chest infection).  Within 24-48 hours of the binge, I suddenly developed strange, unpleasant, visible symptoms: a painful rash on the chest; several bruises; skin discolouration on the backs of my hands and the genitals; red palms; minor hair loss and more general thinning of hair.  I got very panicky, and a doctor on the ward agreed to do various blood tests.  Again, these were normal except for AST and GGT, which were elevated again.  However, the doctor said that everything else being normal showed that I did not have cirrhosis or hepatitis, but that my liver was being irritated by the binge drinking.

I was discharged from hospital, but continued to feel unwell.  I saw my regular GP again nine days ago, and told him about those symptoms.  He asked me what I was worried about, and I said cirrhosis.  He then talked me through the various blood tests again and told me that, yes, I need to stop the heavy drinking, but that I did not have serious liver disease.  I asked him if I should have any scans, etc, and he said no.

I should have been reassured, but continued to feel unwell.  So, I took the opportunity to arrange an ultrasound privately last Thursday.  The radiologist talked me through the scan.  When she got to the liver, she said it was bright on the scan, so it was fatty and slightly enlarged.

Probably unfairly, I asked me if there was cirrohsis.  She said she couldn't see evidence of cirrhosis, but could only comment on what she could see.

However, I felt vindicated in arranging the scan.  I had hoped that the ultrasound would be clear but, if I'm honest, I was certain it would find something wrong.  My stress levels have only further increased because, as my doctor was wrong about me not needing a scan, I wonder what else he could be wrong about.

I went for a walk (8 miles) at the coast this afternoon.  It was hard work at times, but I managed it.  However, I had what I can only describe as oily sweat (my skin has also been feeling oily very recently) and, when I took-off my sweatshirt, there was hair (from my chest) in it.  I know that hair loss and oily skin are also symptoms of fairly advanced liver disease.

I simply find it impossible to believe that "just" a fatty liver could cause me to be feeling the way I am and produced those visible symptoms from 30 August.

It never occurred to me that "only" several months of heavy drinking, often with gaps, could have caused serious damage to my liver.  However, I mentioned prescribed medications I have been taking, and I'm convinced that the excessive alcohol and those medications, many of which are hard on the liver, have been a dangerous combination.

I am both kicking-myself and absolutely terrified, and feel in limbo, waiting for bad news, and just praying for a miracle.   

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12 Replies

  • Posted

    I am sure that if your Dr even remotely thought you had chirosis he would be testing you more in anyway he thought necessary.

    Your results are not that high, in fact there lower than mine and I'm like you I sometimes think it's worse than it is but I have to believe them or go crazy.

    Please go back to your Dr and show him/her this post.

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    • Posted

      Hi.

      I had bloods taken yesterday for liver function tests, complete blood count, and clotting test.  The nurse said the results would be back within 24-48 hours, so I made an appointment with the same doctor for this Friday.  I'm going mad with anxiety and sense of dread.

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  • Posted

    I would ask your gp to make you app with liver specialist. You will be given a fibroscan ( to measure liver stiffness ) and blood tests. Please stop drinking alcohol and if you are over weigh lose weight and eat health cut out sugar,salt.nhs web site very good.

    You can reverse fatty liver if you do the above.

    You will get a lot of advice from the British liver trust site.(they have help site forgotten address but look on BLT site )

    Stop worrying hard to say. I have fatty liver but never drank and with losing weight I hope to reverse this.

    Most of all stop drinking.

    Worry will make you worse and you may not have a problem,wait and see a specialist.

    Hope that helps...holly

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    • Posted

      Thanks, Holly.

      The NHS website, on fatty liver, says it is usuallly reversible in two weeks with no alcohol.  Mine wasn't!

      I got repeat bloods taken yesterday - for liver function tests, complete blood count, and clotting test.  The nurse taking them said the results would be back within 24-48 hours, so I made an appointment to see the same doctor this Friday and will discuss everything with him then.

      I think you're right: only a specialist is going to confirm or deny my fears.

      I just wish I had realised that it doesn't always take years of very heavy alcohol use to cause serious problems, especially when taking liver unfriendly medications along with the alcohol.

       

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  • Posted

    Well, I had a long consultation with my regular GP today, and he talked me through the results of the liver function tests, complete blood count and clotting tests that I had on Tuesday of this week.  I couldn't get a copy of everything - there was too much - but here are some important ones:

    Serum Albumin:  48 g/l  (normal range: 35-50);

    Serum total Bilirubin:  7 umol/l  (0-21);

    Serum gamma GT:  70 U/L  (0-61 - it had been as high as 121 in August);

    AST serum level:  23 U/L  (0-40 - had been as high as 96 in August);

    Alk Phos:  84 U/L  (30-130);

    Platelets:  390  (150-450);

    Prothrombin Time:  9.3  (9.0-12.0).

    Unfortunately, there is no AST value.  The doctor said that is not done routinely, and I have never had it checked for either by the doctor's surgery or hospital.

    Everything else in the various blood tests was in normal ranges.

    The docor said that the AST quickly coming back down to normal and the GGT returning to near normal (he said it takes longer to do so after a spell of heavy drinking) and the other normal, healthy test results show that I definitely do not have cirrhosis or any form of permanent liver damage or advanced liver disease, and that the fatty liver will resolve itself with continued avoidance of heavy drinking.

    I'm sure he thought I was crazy, saying things like I was worried that an already damaged liver would not show raised enzymes because it was not functioning and would not be producing them, but he said that, if that was the case, there would be many other abnormalities in the tests, whereas everything else was normal, and I would also be displaying very severe symptoms, other than just tiredness.

    I asked him about my minor hair loss and more general thinning and poor condition of hair.  He said it was not liver related, but may be hormonal.  He raised the idea of checking my thyroid function (my mother and sister both have thyroid issues), but then we started talking about something else and forgot about that.  I think a thyroid problem might explain some of the symptoms I've been displaying - tiredness, weight loss, hair problems, excessive sweating - and, if there is a problem with it, it's easily fixed.  I'm not worried about that, but, if it is not functioning properly and is put-right, I might feel physically better.  So, I'll see how I feel for a few days and think about going back to get it checked.

    So, as far as the liver is concerned, I guess I am still worried because it showed-up fatty on the ultrasound, I'm kicking-myself about the excessive drinking, and stil don't feel physically great, but guess I should feel somewhat reassured and just try to continue to live more healthily than I have been doing for most of the past year.

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  • Posted

    An update ....

    I had further liver, complete blood count and iron, etc, tests done at  the end of September.  Since then, I've also felt physically well again, with my energy and appetite levels back to normal and my weight stable at about 14st 7lbs (a little overweight for someone of 6' 1").

    These showed further improvement, in fact everything was well within normal ranges.

    I spoke to my GP again and he said that my liver function tests, and possibly the liver itself, had been temporarily affected by serious binges and these had to stop, otherwise I WOULD probably have a permanent problem in 2-3 years from now.  He did not say that I could not have the occasional pint or social glass of wine (as I used to have).  He also said he did not consider me to be an alcoholic.

    Wisely or unwisely, after seven weeks of being completely alcohol-free, I have had a few social pints.  I stress social - not solitary drinking and certainly not spirits.

    I felt fine during, after and the next day, and al of the odd symptoms that I had had have gone.

    Some forum users will probably feel that I have been stupid or that this shows dependance of some kind, but I have taken my doctor's advice, and the drinking was of the type that I did for 25 years: I drank the pints because I liked the company and enjoyed the taste - not to get drunk.

    I've also binned (after liaising with a psychiatrist) three unfriendly psychiatric meds (Pregablin, Quetiapine and Trazodone) and swapped them for one (Citalopram) which isn't noted for being so unkind for the liver.

    I'm due to see the GP again quite soon.  I'll probably ask for repeat blood tests and may push for a repeat ultrasound (if he won't send me for one, I'll probably do it myself) to see if the fatty liver problem has gone or is at least going.

    Gavin.

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    • Posted

      Hi, Glad youre feeling better and cutting alcohol down.say you had a scan did you have a fibroscan .

      I have fatty liver I don't drink, my gp sent me to see specialist who did my blood test and fibroscan.

      Blood tests are ok but fibro scan showed fatty liver 10.1

      My bmi is ok but I was told to lose some weigh,get more exercise and eat health.

      I have been dieting and eating health cutting out suger,my latest fibroscan results are now 7. So things are looking good for me.

      I would also advise you is check you bmi, eat healthy and get plenty of exercise.

      Holly

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    • Posted

      Hi Holly,

      No, if I wanted I fibroscan I would have to arrange it privately.  I will go and get it done f the BLT Roadshow ever returns to Northern Ireland.  I might get an ultrasound but will get blood tests repeated with the GP soon, though he said these were fine because they had come down so quickly when the binge-drinking had stopped.

      My BMI is 24, could probably do with being a couple of points less.

      I have been walking a lot, though it's difficult in the awful weather we're having this week.

      I only resumed very moderate social drinking because the doctor said it was safe to do so.

      He also said that my periodic heavy drinking for less than a year, with big gaps, would not have caused serious or permanent liver damage, though I know that I irritated my liver and possibly caused alcohol poisoning at the end of August.

      But all of my physical symptoms have gone away and I do not have any inclination to buy drink and keep it or drink it in the house - my infrequent consumption of beer has been with food in pubs.

      I know some may consider this foolish or irresponsible, but I'm following doctor's advice, I've also binned the liver-toxic drugs I was on and, mif anything, feel a bit better mentally, too, so fingers crossed.

      Thanks, Holly.

      Gavin.

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    • Posted

      Hi holly, firstly How old are you ? I was drinking like you binge drinking only when problems came my way you really need to set yourself a weekly drinking pattern to slow you right down , from alcohol! Go and see a liver specialist Asap like me I was referred to one myself. They will put your mind at rest, but go Asaph don't waste anytime thinking about it .you may need further treatment you don't want cirrhosis get it sorted soon holly good luck 
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