Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) is caused by drinking too much alcohol. The more you drink above the recommended limits, the higher your risk of developing ARLD.

There are two ways alcohol misuse (drinking too much) can cause ARLD. These are:

  • drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time (binge drinking) can cause fatty liver disease and, less commonly, alcoholic hepatitis
  • drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol over many years can cause hepatitis and cirrhosis, the more serious types of ARLD

Evidence suggests people who regularly drink more than the recommended maximum amounts are most at risk of developing ARLD:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Read more about alcohol units and how to calculate them.

Additional factors

As well as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, other factors can increase your chances of developing ARLD. These include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • being female – women appear to be more vulnerable than men to the harmful effects of alcohol
  • having a pre-existing liver condition, such as hepatitis C 
  • genetics – alcohol dependence and problems processing alcohol often run in families

Page last reviewed: 24/09/2015

Next review due: 31/03/2018