Alcohol-related gastro problems on the rise

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Doctors who deal with alcohol-related gastrointestinal problems face big challenges due to the continuing increase in alcohol consumption in Ireland, experts have warned.


Excess alcohol consumption can lead to many gastrointestinal symptoms, ranging from reflux and diarrhoea to life-threating conditions such as cancer and liver cirrhosis.

According to specialist registrar in gastroenterology, Dr Audrey Dillon, and consultant gastroenterologist, Dr Glen Doherty, of St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, alcohol-related gastrointestinal problems can causes diseases ’that carry significant morbidity and mortality’.

They pointed out that hospital admissions as a result of alcohol consumption have ’risen dramatically’ in Ireland. Between 1995 and 2002 alone, they increased by a massive 92%.

Between 1995 and 2007, alcohol-related liver disease rose by a staggering 190%, ’with a worrying trend among younger age groups – a 247% increase among 15-34 year olds’.

“Approximately 10% of all general inpatient hospital costs, 7% of GP costs and up to 30% of emergency department costs are directly attributable to alcohol,” the doctors said.

Alcohol consumption can affect the oesophagus, stomach, bowel, pancreas and liver. Furthermore, alcohol has been ’directly linked to cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, oesophagus, stomach and upper airways’.

The doctors also pointed out that alcohol liver disease leads to cirrhosis, ’which carries a significant liver cancer risk’ and alcohol has also been implicated in the risk of breast cancer.

“As alcohol consumption continues to increase in Ireland, the treatment of the gastrointestinal-related complications will prove challenging,” Dr Dillon and Dr Doherty warned.

They made their comments in Forum (Clinical Focus), the Journal of the Irish College of General Practitioners.