June 19, 2024

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COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to Alcohol-Related Liver Damage Surge

COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to Alcohol-Related Liver Damage Surge


COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to Alcohol-Related Liver Damage Surge.

Stay-at-Home Behavior During COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to Surge in Severe Alcohol-Related Liver Injury.

There has been a disturbing increase in hospital admissions for alcohol-related hepatitis during the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased alcohol consumption, according to a national study.

The increases were particularly pronounced among younger patients, women and low-income groups, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive treatment and reduced stigma.


COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to Alcohol-Related Liver Damage Surge.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, increased alcohol consumption appears to have led to dire consequences for some individuals, as hospitalizations for alcohol-related liver hepatitis (a life-threatening liver inflammation) have sharply risen. This is the result of a recent nationwide hospitalization data study.


Researchers found that from 2016 to 2020, cases of alcohol-related liver diseases continued to increase, but the rise was particularly pronounced in the year COVID-19 landed in the United States in 2020, with a 12.4% increase compared to 2019 levels.

The situation was even worse for young patients aged 18 to 44, as hospitalizations for alcohol-related hepatitis in this group surged by nearly 20%. The in-hospital mortality in 2020 increased by 24.6% compared to 2019, indicating more severe outcomes.


Dr. Kris Kowdley, a senior author of this study published in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences and a professor at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Washington State University, stated that although this issue has been mentioned in local and regional studies, these findings indicate that the problem is becoming increasingly severe nationwide. He is also the director of the Liver Institute Northwest.



COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to Alcohol-Related Liver Damage Surge.


“We have confirmed that the number of hospitalizations due to alcohol-related hepatitis has steadily increased from 2016 to 2020. We also found that young patients and females experienced a higher increase in in-hospital mortality compared to their counterparts of the same age.”


About one-third of heavy and frequent alcohol drinkers (defined as consuming four or more drinks per day) are susceptible to alcohol-related hepatitis. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting, and jaundice. This condition can lead to permanent liver damage, known as cirrhosis, and may be fatal.


This study utilized data from the National Inpatient Sample, which tracks hospitalizations in 37 states across the United States.

Between 2016 and 2020, approximately 823,000 patients were hospitalized for this disease, making it the most recent year with available data. While this constitutes a relatively small subset compared to the U.S. population, researchers express concern about the rapid increase in cases and the severity of the outcomes.


In 2016, around 146,000 alcohol-related hepatitis patients were hospitalized. By 2019, this number had risen to nearly 169,000, representing an annual growth rate of 5.1% from 2016. By 2020, the figure surged even faster to over 190,000 individuals, marking a 12.4% increase from 2019.


While the disease is more common in males, the surge was more significant among females, with a 14.6% increase from 2019 to 2020, compared to a 12.2% increase in males.

The Southern region of the United States had more cases, but the most notable increase occurred in the Western region.


Researchers also observed changes in economic status. They divided income into four quartiles and found that between 2016 and 2019, the highest-income groups experienced the most substantial increase in alcohol-related hepatitis incidence. However, this trend reversed by 2020, with the highest increase observed in the lowest-income group.


Dr. Cordell added, “During the pandemic, several factors likely contributed to higher alcohol consumption, such as social isolation and fewer barriers to excessive drinking. The relationship with low-income may also be associated with the stress, anxiety, and economic problems brought about by the pandemic.”


The study’s findings suggest the need for a multidisciplinary approach to treat patients with alcohol use disorders, including psychological and behavioral therapy, nutritional counseling, and increased use of medications that help reduce alcohol cravings.

Equally important is the reduction of stigma associated with alcohol-related liver diseases.


He emphasized, “We need to recognize and treat alcohol-related hepatitis as a disease, without stigmatizing those affected, just as we would with any other condition. As healthcare providers and patients, we must also acknowledge that alcohol-related hepatitis can be a life-threatening disease.”



(source:internet, reference only)

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