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Pandemic effects: Health officials seeing more problems with livers

Liver disease weakens the immune system and if you catch covid, you may have higher risks.

BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — Health officials said they are seeing a trickle-down effect with other health issues as the pandemic continues. Quarantine and self-isolation are two key things people can do to protect themselves and others from spreading COVID-19, but doing these things for an extended period of time can lead to strain on your mental health. It can also lead to picking up other behaviors in an effort to feel better, like drinking in excess.

“Alcohol definitely is one of the drugs that affect every cell in the body," said Cindy Fulton. Fulton is the treatment and intervention services director with BVCASA. At least 90% of the alcohol you drink is metabolized by your liver, according to BVCASA. Long term drinking or too much alcohol can scar your liver and lead to other health problems.

“Once the liver is scarred, we get what is called cirrhosis of the liver, and when it gets to that point, it’s not repairable so the person would need a liver transplant," said Fulton.

The problem isn't just corrected there. In order to get on the transplant list, Fulton said, you have to be sober for a certain amount of time. Trying to stop drinking also causes it's own set of health problems.

"When people are drinking a lot, they decide they want to stop, they get really sick," said Fulton. "You can actually die from alcohol withdrawals, so we have to get them into detox."

Enough scarring of the liver can lead to decreased liver function as well as acute liver failure. Dr. Mario de los Santos, a gastroenterologist with Baylor Scott & White - College Station, said your liver plays an important role in the function of other organs in the body.

“If you do have liver failure, it can start to affect other organs and eventually lead to death,” said Dr. delos Santos. Furthermore, dealing with liver disease during an ongoing pandemic puts you at higher risk.

“Liver disease can affect the immune system so we’ve seen cases where people with known alcohol cirrhosis with COVID can have dangerous outcomes," said Dr. de los Santos. "They usually have longer hospitalization and increase risk of death due to COVID."

This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a glass of wine or other alcohol while you're in self-isolation or quarantine. Dr. de los Santos said drinking in moderation is key. BVCASA said if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse and/or alcoholism, to please reach out to them and they will guide you toward the right resources. Struggling with addiction is not something to be ashamed of and you can get help. Click below to learn more:

BVCASA provides a continuum of prevention, intervention and treatment services to address substance abuse and addiction in the Brazos Valley.