Liver disease: Doctor discusses causes and symptoms
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Fatty liver disease, which is also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, refers to a range of liver conditions not caused by alcohol. Instead the main cause of fatty liver disease, as the name suggests, is too much fat in the organ. If the condition worsens it can lead to cirrhosis, and even liver failure and liver cancer.
In its early stages fatty liver disease often doesn’t display symptoms.
It is not until it progresses that certain signs will become apparent.
More commonly known symptoms, for example, include jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes) and pain in the top right of the abdomen.
But one study has found that the consistency of your stool could signal the disease.
A paper, published in the British Medical Journal of Open Gastroenterology, found a link between diarrhoea and fatty liver disease.
As part of the study, academics from the Indiana University School of Medicine cross referenced data from adults who completed bowel health questions between 2005 and 2010.
It said: “Among 13,413 adults, weighted prevalence rates of constipation and diarrhoea were 8.9 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.
“Mean body mass index was associated with bowel patterns, and was higher with diarrhoea versus normal bowel patterns and with diarrhoea versus constipation.
“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease was more prevalent in diarrhoea versus normal bowel patterns or constipation in adjusted analyses.”
It concluded: “Prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease was higher in those with diarrhoea than in those with constipation or normal bowel patterns, and this association was independent of body mass index.
“A potential independent link between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and diarrhoea may influence our clinical approach to patients who suffer from these two highly prevalent conditions.”
Symptoms of fatty liver disease can include:
- A dull or aching pain in the top right of the tummy (over the lower right side of the ribs)
- Extreme tiredness
- Unexplained weight loss
If the disease then progresses to cirrhosis, other symptoms can develop such as:
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Itchy skin
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet or tummy (oedema).
The NHS recommends seeking medical help if you experience these symptoms.
Cirrhosis occurs after years of inflammation and causes the liver to shrink and become scarred.
It is not known exactly why some people develop fatty liver disease.
But there are a number of factors that can raise your risk of fatty liver disease including:
- Being obese or overweight
- Having type 2 diabetes
- If you are insulin resistance, such as polycystic ovary syndrome
- An underactive thyroid
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity)
- If you are over the age of 50
And non-alcoholic steatohepatitis – a serious form of the disease – is more common among older people, people with diabetes and people with body fat concentrated in the abdomen.
Therefore, the NHS advises the following to reduce your risk:
- Losing weight if necessary
- Eating a healthy balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Swapping sweet drinks for water.
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