'I got cirrhosis at 34'

After years of drinking at what he thought were normal levels, Andy Ball was diagnosed with the liver disease cirrhosis.

"I don’t have a history of alcoholism in my family and I had a normal relationship with alcohol. It was never taboo. As I got older, though, it became apparent I could drink more than other people.

"At teenage parties, I'd turn up with four cans of beer and after three cans other kids would be getting merry, but I'd be thinking, 'I just feel the same as before'. So I started having a few cans before I went to parties, and then stronger stuff as I got older.

"I started drinking more heavily around the age of 17, the last year of my A-levels. I would drink every day. But again, I didn’t think it was a problem. I had four close mates, and I was aware that we drank more than other people. I wasn’t a nasty drunk, I rarely lost my temper and I never got into trouble over alcohol.

"I got four A-levels and started university, and no one commented on my drinking. I was doing weight training and exercise so I didn’t really look like I had a problem. I could drink half a bottle of vodka and nobody would know.

"But by the time I left university I was beginning to feel unwell. I gave up playing rugby and went to the doctor because I was getting pains in my gut. I had what’s called a fatty liver, which can progress to hepatitis and cirrhosis. But because my health was OK for the next few years, I continued drinking.

'I turned yellow'

NHS recommends:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day.
  • Women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day.

"Regularly" means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week.

"In 2001 I became very sick. I literally turned yellow and my hair started falling out. My nails went translucent and I looked just like a hollow lemon. 

"I was admitted to hospital and told that I had cirrhosis. I’ve also got a condition known as portal hypertension (very high blood pressure in the large veins that take blood to my liver) because my rigid liver can’t process my blood fast enough.

"The most dangerous thing is that I have swellings in my throat called varices, which are caused by the high pressure in the vein that transports blood from the gut to the liver. If one of them bursts I could die.

"I haven’t had a drink since I went into hospital. It was annoyingly easy to give up drinking, because I wasn’t really much of an alcoholic. I was just drinking a huge amount.

"My liver is quite delicate. I have to eat healthily and take care of myself. I also have to take beta blockers and go to the hospital fairly regularly to check that my varices are OK.

"People do live in denial about the amount they drink. A lot of us are alcohol-dependent to some extent because few of us would choose to socialise without a drink in our hand. But if you continue drinking at a high level, you could end up where I am.” 

Liver disease

Alcoholic liver disease is a range of conditions and associated symptoms that develop when the liver becomes damaged due to alcohol misuse. In this video, consultant hepatologist Mark Wright talks about how avoiding alcohol can help those with the condition.

Media last reviewed: 01/07/2012

Next review due: 01/07/2014

Page last reviewed: 24/10/2012

Next review due: 24/10/2014


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 30 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

grahdavies said on 27 September 2009

I was a heavy drinker for a number of years,and have scince quit it has been 8 months now and i still continue to have weird side effects from stopping, i developed varisces in my stomach from which i to blead very heavily,i was also in hospital for an extended period of time where i was transfused with blood and platelets.It had to be the scariest thing i have ever faced in my life,i hallucinated badly and very nearly chucked the towel in,however i agree with previous comments,that it was much easier to quit with supervision than i had first realised,i take my hat off to the N.H.S staff for all there help because without there patience and blind determination i would not be here now.A gain Thank you.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

christoper said on 18 February 2009

I read this story have had a similar experience except I was told I had cirrhosis and portal hypertension when I was thirty one, that was eight years ago, and have never drank since but have had countless visits to ultra scans, endoscopes (a camera down my throat) and twelve tablets a day including propranolol (a beta blocker), I only found out I had something wrong with me when I woke up one morning vomiting blood I was rushed up the hospital and given a blood transfusion of over fourteen pints what was put in just bled back out, it took two weeks for me to get out of hospital and they ran out of places to put drips in me, if I knew then what I know now I would have never drank in the first place.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

LJB1978 said on 04 May 2008

My friend lost her brother to a burst varicose vein in the throat due to the same symptoms and same condition. This was a total shock to the family and to myself as my own father died from alcoholic related symptoms. He died in his early thirties, the same age as my friends brother.
When you know you have a problem, and deep down you do know, please don't brush it aside or claim that it's normal in today's lifestyle, seek help.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Services near you

Find addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you


Media last reviewed: 11/03/2013

Next review due: 11/03/2015

Video: cirrhosis Phil's story

Phil has cirrhosis of the liver because of his alcohol intake. In this video he talks about why he was shocked to discover he had cirrhosis because he considered his drinking habits to be normal.

Drinking and alcohol

Calculate your units, read about the health risks of drinking too much and find out where to get help and support