Did you know that women are more likely to develop cirrhosis, a potentially dangerous liver condition, despite not drinking as much as men? On average, the statistics appear to make little sense. Alcohol consumption is positively linked with cirrhosis among men, but for women there is a higher chance of developing it even when drinking significantly less alcohol. So what the other factors at work here?
One of the most common factors involved is age. Research has shown that women display a tendency to develop cirrhosis later in life, something which cannot be observed in men in the same way. A reduction in the amount of estrogen in the body can negatively affect your liver’s health, as one thing that hormone does is reduce the impact of fatty deposits building up in it. Part of this effect is down to combating fat build-up through exercise, and lack of estrogen working against this. Fatty deposits are a contributing factor to liver cirrhosis in people of any gender, but the menopause will increase the prevalence of the issue in women.
Primary biliary cirrhosis is another age-related variety of the condition, usually more likely to affect women in their 40s and 50s. In women, the average age for developing this disease is lower than for men. Another type of cirrhosis is caused in some cases by the later development of autoimmune hepatitis, which affects women disproportionately at any age compared to men. Young women and even teenagers can also develop this particular type of cirrhosis under some circumstances, so age is far from the only difference between the sexes when it comes to liver health.
However, we can safely say that in the majority of cases there are two major factors at play. Age is one of them, as we have discussed, and others are less strongly linked (such as genetic factors or environmental influences), but the main one we can actually take action against is drug or alcohol use. Ultimately, the liver is more likely to suffer damage as a result of being forced to process a higher quantity of toxins and chemicals. Women’s bodies are scientifically more sensitive to these, so the liver is more likely to develop cirrhosis more quickly. Even prescription medication can have a greater negative effect in women than in men, so it’s vital to use caution.