Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms
The liver is one of our vital organs, carrying out hundreds of jobs needed to keep our bodies functioning.
Therefore, any issues with the liver can be serious and even fatal.
Fatty liver disease is one such issue, which as the name suggests, is caused by having too much fat in the liver.
Professor William Alazawi, consultant hepatologist at London Bridge Hospital, spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk about how to spot potential signs of the disease.
“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, also referred to as NAFLD, is a common condition which is caused by an excessive build-up of fat in the liver,” he said.
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“It can affect anyone, though it is most often seen in people who live with obesity or type 2 diabetes.
“For most people with fatty liver disease, the fat does not cause lasting damage to the liver, although it does increase the risk of serious health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and kidney disease.
“However, in some people, the fat can irritate the liver leading to inflammation, liver cell damage and scar tissue formation, or fibrosis.
“This condition is called NASH (short for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis).
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“Without treatment, NASH has the potential to progress to advanced scarring and cirrhosis of the liver which can increase the risk of liver failure or liver cancer.”
Symptoms of fatty liver disease
Prof Alazawi warned doctors sometimes call fatty liver disease a silent disease.
He added: “This is because a person might not experience any symptoms, even as the disease progresses.
“People with fatty liver disease often have no symptoms at all, although some report abdominal pain or discomfort and fatigue.”
He shared six symptoms that could appear in the late stages of the disease:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Abdominal swelling
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
- A tendency to bruise easily.
These can indicate that the liver is not working properly.
“If you notice these, you should seek urgent medical attention,” he added.
According to the NHS, patients with fatty liver disease might also experience:
- Extreme tiredness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swelling in the legs, ankles or feet.
Although there is no medication available to treat fatty liver disease, certain lifestyle changes could help ease symptoms and even reverse some of the damage caused.
Prof Alazawi commented: “Liver fat and even scarring can be reversed with behaviour and lifestyle change and particularly weight loss.
“Doctors and nurses will advise and support patients to make these changes which may include avoiding alcohol, making changes to your diet and exercising more.
“For more advice on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and on the dietary changes that can help, please visit the British Liver Trust website and if you are worried about your liver health or possible symptoms, please seek medical attention.”
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