Medical experts warn of pandemic-related rise in liver disease

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — Health experts are warning of one unintended possible consequence of the pandemic: a rise in liver disease.

Alcohol sales are not only up sharply in stores, there is also significant new growth with restaurant pickup of cocktails and orders through delivery apps.

The boozy bonanza has apparently contributed to more admissions for liver disease at Keck Medicine of USC.

A liver transplant specialist at USC’s Keck Medicine, Dr. Brian Lee, told NewsNation correspondent Nancy Loo, “Whether it be from losing their job, to financial insecurity, loneliness, boredom, stress from the virus itself, that has led them to drink more. That’s caused serious health consequences, like alcohol-related hospitalizations.”

Hepatologist Brian Lee estimates admissions for alcoholic liver disease are up by about 30% since the pandemic set in. Other major hospitals and clinics also report big jumps.

In addition, they’re seeing more former alcoholics who’ve relapsed.

“Lots of patients with alcoholic disease were stable. They were not deteriorating by any means, they were not heading towards a need for transplant. But this pandemic has really put a wrench in things,” said Institute of Nevada Gastroenterologist Dr. Rajat Sood.

And those being admitted with liver issues now include more women, minorities and young people.

“In the last few months, we’ve seen more of younger people. I would say people anywhere younger than 50. I’ve had an alcoholic hepatitis cirrhosis patient we had to do a transplant on age 17,” explained Dr. Sood.

“Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease and whether this has opened some sort of Pandora’s Box and that people have started to drink more and that’s something that will continue even beyond the pandemic, I think we really need to keep an eye on,” said Dr. Lee.

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