Leeds doctor's warning over impact of festive drinking

IT's the season to eat, drink and be merry - but a Leeds doctor is urging revellers to go easy on the booze.
File picture.File picture.
File picture.

While the impact of alcohol on the liver is well-known, Christian Macutkiewicz from Spire Leeds Hospital in Roundhay is warning that overindulging can also cause another serious and even deadly condition.

Mr Macutkiewicz, consultant in pancreatico-biliary and laparoscopic surgery, said: “Most people are aware of the link between alcohol and liver damage, but it’s not as well known that alcohol can also severely damage the pancreas and lead to acute pancreatitis.

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“Unlike the liver, the pancreas cannot regenerate itself. Repeated attacks of pancreatitis can lead to diabetes and in severe pancreatitis, can damage other organs and become life-threatening.

“Nobody wants to be a killjoy during the festive season, however it’s very important to drink in moderation. People need to be able to make informed decisions about their own drinking.

“It helps to be aware of how much alcohol you are consuming and how quickly.”

Mr Macutkiewicz said binge drinking, as well as long-term alcohol use, could cause pancreatitis, a serious and painful inflammation of the pancreas.

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Once an attack starts, it can develop quickly with stomach pain being the main symptom.

A mild attack usually settles in a few days but in a minority of patients it can become severe. Around 20,000 people develop acute pancreatitis each year in England, ten per cent of whom develop severe pancreatitis – which leads to death in 20 per cent of cases.

Symptoms of pancreatitis typically begin anytime from six hours to a few days after a heavy drinking session.

But in some people with a heightened sensitivity to alcohol, the condition can develop after they have drunk even a small amount.

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Mr Macutkiewicz added that the numbers of people affected rose around the Christmas and New Year period: “We tend to see an increase in cases of pancreatitis following Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and throughout the festive period.”

He is urging people to stick to the latest government guidelines for alcohol consumption, which advise men and women should not exceed 14 units of alcohol per week. This equals six pints of average strength beer a week, or about five standard glasses of wine.

However, the doctor said it was important to spread those units over three or more days and not store them up for a binge session. He added: “A good way to reduce alcohol intake is to have several alcohol-free days a week.”