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These Two Diseases Are On a Dramatic Rise Post-Pandemic

Both are related to alcohol consumption.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
woman with hands holding pressing her crotch lower abdomen

After nearly a year and a half, the COVID-19 health crisis seems to be winding down as a result of increased vaccination efforts. However, the impact of the global pandemic may continue to be experienced for many years to come. According to new research, two potentially critical—and preventable—diseases have surged as a result of pandemic-related behaviors. Read on to find out what they are—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID And Should Tell Your Doctor.

GI and Liver Diseases Linked to Alcohol Rise During Pandemic

The study, spearheaded by lead researcher Waihong Chung, MD, Ph.D., research fellow for the Division of Gastroenterology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, found that inpatient consults for alcohol-related gastrointestinal (GI) and liver diseases significantly increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and still remained elevated. They also found that the proportion of patients requiring inpatient endoscopic interventions for their alcohol-related GI and liver diseases also surged, which means the severity of the disease is worsening as well. 

"When we went into lockdown, many people experienced significant negative impacts, such as social isolation, job loss and an increase in anxiety and depression," Dr. Chung explained. "These experiences may have led people to increase their alcohol consumption, which could explain why we are seeing a surge in the volume of consultations for alcohol-related diseases."

The research, which will be presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2021, compared hospital data from during the pandemic to that during the same time frame in 2019. While the total number of GI consults declined by 27 percent during lockdown, due to restrictions on hospital visits, the proportion of consults for alcohol-related GI and liver diseases increased by nearly 50 percent—including alcohol-related forms of hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis and gastritis. Alternatively, there were no significant changes in consults for non-alcohol related liver disease. 

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Spike Is Linked to the Lockdown Phase

"In further analysis, we noted that during the lockdown phase, the majority of admission for alcohol-related GI and liver diseases clustered around weeks five, six and seven of lockdown," Dr. Chung said. "This timeframe mirrors the length of time it takes for symptoms to appear for these diseases, suggesting the start of the pandemic may have had an impact on patients' alcohol consumption."

During the reopening stage when the total number of GI consults was operating at pre-pandemic levels, they found that consults for alcohol-related GI and liver diseases remained highly elevated by 78.7 percent. Additionally, patients with alcoholic hepatitis more than doubled (127.2 percent) compared to 2019, while those requiring inpatient endoscopic procedures were up 34 percent.

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What Are The Symptoms of Alcohol-Related GI and Liver Diseases

"Alcohol-related GI or liver diseases may cause sudden weight gain, yellowing of the skin, confusion, fatigue, decreased appetite, black stool and/or severe abdominal pain," said Dr. Chung. "I encourage anyone who is experiencing these symptoms as well as anyone who is concerned about his or her own drinking to see a physician as soon as possible." As for yourself, to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss: This Supplement Can Raise Your Cancer Risk, Experts Say.