Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. As the name implies, the main characteristic of NAFLD is too much fat stored in liver cells. When the liver is in poor health, a strong and foul-smelling breath may be an early indicator of your risk.
Fetor hepaticus, which is sometimes called “breath of the dead”, occurs when breath has a strong, musty smell.
It’s a sign that the liver is having trouble doing its job of filtering out toxic substances, usually due to severe liver disease.
As a result, sulphur substances end up in your bloodstream and can make their way to your lungs.
Fetor hepaticus occurs when the breath has a strong, musty smell.
It’s a sign that your liver is having trouble doing its job of filtering out toxic substances, usually due to severe liver disease.
As a result, sulphur substances end up in the bloodstream and can make their way to the lungs.
Fetor hepaticus is associated with severe liver disease, which causes scarring and poor functioning of your liver.
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The main symptom of fetor hepaticus is breath that smells like a combination of rotten eggs and garlic.
Other people describe it as a slightly sweet smell.
Additional symptoms include:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Bleeding easily
- Yellow skin
- Swollen legs
- Abdominal swelling
The liver is at the heart of many key metabolic pathways in the body and, as such, the products of metabolism offer an ideal target for monitoring liver function and to detect the early signs of disease, said Owlstone Medical.
The health site added: “Various studies have used blood, faecal or urine samples to detect late-stage liver conditions, but perhaps the most promising approach involves detecting volatile metabolites in breath.
“The earliest evidence that breath can be linked to liver disease comes from Ancient Greece and Hippocrates’ description of fetor hepaticus – distinctive bad smelling breath resulting from the liver failing to correctly metabolise sulphur containing compounds.
“We now know that the smell itself is primarily linked to an increase of dimethyl sulphide in exhaled air.
“While fetor hepaticus demonstrates that metabolic changes can be reflected in breath, alone it is of limited use as it indicates late-stage liver disease.”
Why is alcoholic fatty disease dangerous?
The NHS warn of “portal hypertension” as a potential health complication of alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“It occurs when the blood pressure inside your liver has risen to a potentially serious level,” said the national health body.
A scarred liver makes it difficult for blood to travel through the organ, forcing blood to use smaller blood vessels instead.
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