MIDDLE-aged women are at increased risk of liver disease caused by alcohol and often do not realise they are drinking too much.

New figures have revealed that over the last ten years cases of liver disease in the region involving women aged 30-49 have gone up by 72 per cent, but little is being done to tackle the problem.

Dr Diamond Joy, a liver expert at James Cook University Hospital, said: “I have been a consultant here for three years and I regularly see two or three women in my ward where I wouldn’t expect to see any, with liver damage close to 90 per cent.

“The youngest I have seen is early 20s, but certainly late 20s to early 40s is where you are finding women with liver damage.

“I see many people in the clinic and it takes quite a bit of coaxing for them to even realise there is a problem with their drinking.”

Last month there were rumours that the Government may drop proposals for minimum alcohol pricing, despite experts predicting the problem will get worse.

Dr Richard Thomas, liver specialist at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust, said: “This disease used to be the preserve of older men, but not now.

“Whatever we put in place to solve the problem there will be a lag because liver damage happens after a period of heavy drinking. What we are seeing now is the product of what was going on five or six years ago.

“Certainly in the next four or five years I would predict the problem will keep getting worse. We will see an increase in referrals for liver transplants.”

Hospitals are now using special teams of nurses to identify patients at an early stage and convince them to stop drinking, but often they rely on people admitting they have a problem before they can intervene.

Outside of hospitals, councils are doing little to tackle to problem of drinking among middle age women.

Colin Shevills, of Balance North East, an alcohol-pressure group which released the statistics, said: “If you’re asking are local authorities targeting this particular age group, then no. This is a population level issue and needs to be dealt with as such.

“What local authorities have to do is follow an evidence base and what the evidence shows is that there are groups who are more at risk. Local authorities are cash strapped and they have to develop a strategy that targets those most at risk like middle aged men.”

However, Jim Beall, Stockton Council’s cabinet member for adult services and health, said: “We are running a number of initiatives and campaigns aimed at that age group including a social marketing campaign which targeted women in the workplace.”