Alcoholic liver disease is caused by alcohol misuse. The more you drink above the recommended limits, the higher your risk of developing alcoholic liver disease.
There are two ways that alcohol misuse can cause alcoholic liver disease:
- drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time (known as binge drinking) can cause alcoholic fatty liver disease and, less commonly, alcoholic hepatitis
- drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol over many years can cause hepatitis and cirrhosis, the more serious types of alcoholic liver disease
The people at highest risk of developing serious types of alcoholic liver disease are:
- men who drink more than 35 units of alcohol a week for 10 years or more
- women who drink more than 28 units of alcohol a week for 10 years or more
Read more about alcohol units and how to calculate them.
Additional risk factors
Almost all people who misuse alcohol will develop fatty liver disease. Around one in four will develop hepatitis and one in five will develop cirrhosis.
However, people who do not develop hepatitis or cirrhosis are still at risk of developing other alcohol-related conditions, such as liver cancer, stroke and heart disease. This suggests that there are additional risk factors that make some people more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol on their liver.