Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
FATTY liver disease, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is a fatty build-up in the liver that can cause serious complications if left untreated. It’s usually seen in people who are overweight or obese. The condition is characterised by a number of stages, the latter of which can lead to liver damage.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, symptoms do not usually surface in the initial stages but some individuals with NAFLD can develop liver inflammation and may progress to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure.
In the latter stages, you may notice a number of skin changes; in addition to jaundice, discolouration in the neck (swollen glands).
According to the gastro clinic, spider veins on the chest, back, and shoulders are a possible warning sign.
You may also notice “Possibly broken blood vessels in the face”, it says.
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“Also the hands might be affected, red palms and nail beds turning white,” it adds.
How is fatty liver disease diagnosed?
According to the NHS, fatty liver disease is often diagnosed after a blood test called a liver function test produces an abnormal result and other liver conditions, such as hepatitis, are ruled out.
But blood tests do not always pick up fatty liver disease, however.
“The condition may also be spotted during an ultrasound scan of your tummy,” explains the NHS.
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This is a type of scan where sound waves are used to create an image of the inside of your body.
“If you’re diagnosed with NAFLD, further tests may be needed to determine which stage you have,” notes the NHS.
It adds: “This may involve a special blood test or having another type of ultrasound scan (Fibroscan).”
How to reduce your risk
You can keep the risk of developing fatty liver disease by making healthy lifestyle choices.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause a fat buildup in the liver, but it can also affect people who consume little or no alcohol.
“Instead, the main culprit is excess weight — which causes extra fat to get stored in the liver — and is associated with dyslipidemia (abnormally high LDL cholesterol levels, low HDL levels, or both), high blood pressure, and diabetes,” explains Harvard Health.
As the number of overweight people has increased, so too has the prevalence of fatty liver disease.
“Much of this can be attributed to a regular diet of more processed foods and high amounts of carbohydrates, along with more sedentary lifestyles,” said Dr Kathleen Corey, director of the Fatty Liver Disease Clinic at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Instead, you should opt for whole grain carbohydrates (such as breads, rice and pasta) which are high in fibre, advises Bupa.
You should also replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, says the health body.
“This may help reduce your risk of heart disease which can be linked to NAFLD,” it adds.
Other dietary tips include:
- Avoid food and drinks that are high in sugar
- Eat more vegetables and fruit
- Monitor your portion sizes, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
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